To commemorate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, Kessler Foundation, West Orange, NJ, released sample posts from its Facebook page posted by individuals with disabilities nationwide that describe the obstacles they have overcome and the expectations they have exceeded. The Facebook posts are a part of Kessler’s ongoing “Only Abilities Matter” campaign, launched in October 2011. The campaign also features public service announcements emphasizing abilities before disabilities voiced by former football player Eric LeGrand and actors Daryl “Chill” Mitchell and John Larroquette. 

The Facebook posts showcase a wide range of individuals, including Sgt John Irwin, Iraqi war veteran (pictured right) who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after his vehicle was hit by an IED. A Kessler Foundation news release reports that Irwin was awarded the Purple Heart for his services and also found a position working for a congressman on Veteran issues. Irwin also volunteers for Tip of the Arrow and has helped place more than 40 veterans in full-time employment.  Other posts yield from individuals with disabilities who were seeking employment and found it thanks to Arthur & Friends, an organization in which employees grow produce hyrdoponically and sell it to local businesses. Kessler Foundation provided seed funding to launch the organization. 

The Kessler Foundation’s own Lauren Scrivo pictured (below, left), Kessler Foundation communication specialist, discusses her own abilities and successes in the posts. Scrivo notes that she was born with a form of muscular dystrophy and went on to earn her master’s degree, working as an intern for Kessler Foundation. Kessler adds that after a year and a half Scrivo was hired as a full time employee. Scrivo emphasizes her passion in, “working for an organization that will improve the lives of individuals with disabilities…While I’ve overcome obstacles in my life, I see every challenge as a new opportunity to prove my abilities,” Scrivo says. 

Another post by John H. notes that despite his visual disability (20/300 corrected) he has found work as a pastor of a local church. “You are only disabled if you choose to be,” he emphasizes. This sentiment is echoed in Chris Miller’s post, which states that he does not let his cerebral palsy (CP) become a obstacle from living life, “I am vice-chair of the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities and going to college to get my bachelor’s degree…My abilities are stronger than my challenges,” Miller says. 

Kevin Greene, who sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) and TBI, reports that he has been able to, “return to work, drive, and live life.” Greene volunteers with Kessler Foundation in its ThinkFirst program where he educates children from kindergarten to 12th grade about safety and injury prevention. The release also notes that Greene found employment following a laboratory technician training program at JFK. Green adds that following injury, “I want everyone to know that life does not stop; it only changes.”

Laura Watson, aged 22 years old and living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II notes in the release that, “Despite all of my limitations, I have never looked at myself as having a disability…Only abilities matter.” Watson is currently pursuing a bachelors degree at Rutgers University, belongs to a sorority, and works a part time job as a data clerk at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. 

The Facebook posts also reflect the success that individuals have experienced through the Opportunity Project, Milburn, NJ, which provides support and resources to individuals with brain injury. Another individual, Madinah G, voices how she was able to find new meaning in the life through art.

Former football player Eric LeGrand (pictured right) also lends his voice to the posts, highlighting his Emmy and EPSY awards, and draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers among other accolades that prove, “if you put your mind to something and work hard, the sky is the limit for anything in this world.”

Source: Kessler Foundation

Photo Credit(s): Kessler Foundation, Lynn Lane Photography