First, I’m Eliana and I’m a Paralympic Athlete
March 10th, 2021
Eliana has found that people are quick to make assumptions about her abilities as a person with a visual impairment. She believes we can create more inclusive communities by individuals without disabilities asking more questions and educating themselves on what it’s like to experience life with a disability. Read more of Eliana's thoughts below.
Q: What have you learned about the importance of community this year?
A: Everybody needs to feel like they have a community or a sense of belonging to something. A year of not being able to do what you’re used to can be very isolating and it shows you the importance of shared connection and shared experiences.
A: It is shared experiences of people working towards or aiming to accomplish something together. There is a sense of purpose and a goal that binds the group together. Part of it is also feeling like you belong, feeling included, and being accepted for your authentic self
Q: What does community mean to you?
A: It makes me feel like I have belonging. Within your community you have friendships and connection. It is basic human nature to want to belong to a group and feel included. I think it is a sense of safety too, you have people to count on.
Q: What strengths do you bring to your community?
A: I am very passionate about things, so if I have something I am working for I am very determined and focused on making that happen. I care about others; I am going to grad school to be a mental health counselor. Others are important to me, being there for them, supporting them, understanding them. I bring joy to the people I care about and they bring joy to me, it is a reciprocal relationship.
Q: How do you want to be known in the community?
A: I want to be known for not one specific thing. Every person has a bunch of things that help shape them, but not one single thing defines a person. Ultimately what I want to be known for is treating people with respect and integrity.
Q: How can we create stronger, more inclusive communities?
A: Usually when someone has a disability, they’re asked to step into the able-bodied world, but people who are fully able-bodied don’t usually step into the disability world, so we need to have more awareness opportunities. Check your own inherent biases, you don’t know what you don’t know and that’s okay. No one is perfect. Check your biases, work to understand them, change them, and be more aware.
A big thing too is not assuming what someone’s ability status is. Have faith in people that they will tell you what they need. For example, I am visually impaired and can see some things better than others. If I need assistance, I will ask. Don’t assume what someone is capable of, let them show you.
Q: Why do you think more inclusive communities are important?
A: Because there are so many minority groups and so much oppression, it is up to the dominant groups to make the change. It shouldn’t be the responsibility or the burden of people with disabilities to have to fight for that equality. Able-bodied people should be working towards that inclusivity and awareness. In my family, I may be the only blind person they know and it is not my burden to educate them on blindness. It’s the burden of the people who are able-bodied to want to be more inclusive.