How Trump Changed Everything for This Guy in a Wheelchair

Growing up, I always dreamt of being a reporter because I wanted to make a difference in the world. I knew that would be hard because I was born with severe cerebral palsy. This makes me unable to talk like most people do and I live life sitting in a wheelchair.I can only type three to five words a minute on my Dynavox communication device.Growing up, I knew why some people thought my dream of being a professional journalist was pure delusion. Their negative attitudes fueled my mind to study 17 hours a day while in school at the University of North Texas, working on my bachelor's degree.Since I graduated in 2005, people have naturally scoffed at this goal. I was seemingly stuck in no man's land with my journalism career, hardly imagining an actual opportunity to write.Everything changed in an instant on the night of November 8. I know many Americans are concerned as the Trump administration begins to get its sea legs, and yet it is a life-altering presidency for people like me.As an educated person, I am gravely concerned Trump's education department will limit opportunities for disabled children to achieve their dreams. I would not be writing this editorial without the commitment that my public education teachers showed in finding ways to teach a bright, wheelchair-bound kid.I strongly doubt our Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would have worked with me if I were in her class. DeVos seemed like an amateur educator in her Senate confirmation hearing when she gave answers to Sen. Maggie Hassan's questions involving her knowledge of the Individual Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Hassan, who has a son with severe cerebral palsy, asked DeVos if she knew IDEA was federal law and that states were bound by the act.DeVos answered, "I may have confused the law with something else."This stark reality, and the lack of knowledge, frightens me about whether a child with a disability stands a chance to be successful in Trump's educational system. A quality public education system is often essential to getting these children to learn.DeVos seems to be an advocate for putting kids with disabilities in charter schools. The reason I am skeptical of this is public school systems generally provide their families a much-needed safety net to fund the children's special equipment necessities.My family could not have afforded the technological devices that were crucial for me to finish high school. This makes me wonder if my mind would have fallen by the wayside under Devos's leadership.Education is not the only reason I am worried about how Trump's presidency will negatively impacting my community. Our president seems to lack awareness of how his aggressive tone during the campaign has made abuse by some of his followers on people like me a mainstream event.Trump's harsh reaction toward J.J. Holmes, a 12-year-old boy with my disability who protested at one of his campaign rallies, is one of the most troubling moments in my mind. J.J. had pleaded with his mom to let him experience a Trump rally in Tampa three days before the election. According to a story in the Washington Post, he pre-programmed his computer vocalization drive with protest chants, like "Dump Trump," and once there, pushed the button. I was frightened by the way that Trump discredited the voice of Holmes. This president seemed to have been downright mocking how quiet JJ's computer voice was in a rambling campaign riff.According to the Post, Trump said, "I must tell you, the Bernie Sanders supporters had much more enthusiasm than this one. The problem with these Hillary protesters is that my people make all the noise ... You can't even hear the person."My first thought was: What kind of a man insults a 12-year-old kid sitting in his wheelchair?Trump's rant riled up the crowd as people started chanting, "USA! USA! USA!"Hearing details of this story sickened me as I wondered what were these adults trying to prove by in bullying a defenseless, wheelchair-bound kid.J.J.'s mom, Allison Holmes, told reporters she shielded her son's wheelchair from Trump's supporters who attempted to push the family out of their designated space. His story convinced me that our country needs to hear from one stubborn journalist who has never spoken a word in his life: me.I hope my story reassures people that the disability community should be wholeheartedly accepted by our society. I want readers to remember this column when they meet someone sitting in a wheelchair.Jeremiah "Jay" Prophet is a writer living in Denton. Email:  Continue reading...

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