Central Oregonian college student shares her story 

By Maya Andrick 

Maya is a NAMI Central Oregon intern and Linfield University psychology/sociology student. She is from Redmond, OR, and loves riding horses, singing and going to concerts with her family. 

Maya Andrick

As a teenager living with Cerebral Palsy and a visual impairment, I have firsthand experience navigating living with disabilities. In my 19 years, I have learned a lot about how to accomplish things in spite of the limitations my disabilities pose. I have gained skills in advocating for what I need, as well as learning how to get around in unfamiliar environments. It is very possible to thrive while living with disabilities. 

In light of Disability Pride Month, there are a few things I think it would be good for the community to know. 

Ask what we need, don’t assume. 

The biggest concern is stereotypes from others. When individuals act on pre-assumed ideas of how someone with disabilities should behave, or it is just assumed they need help, it can be hurtful and make stigmas around disabilities even worse. Making quick assumptions can be dangerous and very offensive to a person with disabilities.

When I was in elementary school, the classroom aides would frequently jump to the conclusion that I had learning disabilities alongside my physical ones. They would assume I could not retain content learned in class. They would be condescending and talk down to me. I was also seated in the back of the classroom with all the other students who had disabilities. Due to how I was being treated in class, I felt very isolated from my peers and misunderstood from staff members. I wish that instead of seating me in the back of the class, they had seated me in the front. I may have felt more connected to my peers and had an easier time engaging in class from up front, since I am very nearsighted.  

Just let people live sometimes 

One time at a pool, someone came up to me and asked if I was hurt or needed crutches because I was walking so weird. Making assumptions like this is offensive and can make it a lot harder for people with disabilities to feel comfortable speaking up about them. In this scenario, I honestly wish they had not asked me anything about why I was walking funny and had just let me be at the pool. When someone asks me about what’s wrong with my leg, or says that I “walk weird,” I feel offended, judged and would rather not be asked those questions, especially by strangers. 

Kindness and compassion go a long way 

There are lots of awkward or condescending interactions I have with people, but there are also tons of good people and kind, compassionate interactions. I have asked numerous teachers for accommodations for tests or easier visual access to content covered in class. My teachers have generally been very understanding and accommodating of my needs. And I am lucky to have lots of wonderful friends who are empathetic of my disabilities and ask questions about them from a well meaning and sensitive perspective. 

If there is one thing I would love for community members to know, is that their words and actions and beliefs all play a part in shaping a culture. When it comes to disabilities, please do not assume someone’s needs or incapabilities, and try to keep an open mind. This will help cultivate a more safe and welcoming environment.