By Musuleng Natasha Jackson (YES 2017-18, Liberia, hosted by PAX in Vancouver, WA)
My name is Musuleng Natasha Jackson, and I am from Liberia, a country in West Africa. I was on the YES program in 2017-2018, and was placed in Vancouver, Washington.
The Americans with Disability Act means a whole lot to me as a person living with disability. Inspired by the ADA, there had been many countries passing laws that protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Sixteen years after the ADA was signed on July 26, 1990, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) was established on December 13, 2006. I’m of the strongest conviction that the ADA had a strong hold on Liberia’s decision to sign the UNCRPD on July 26, 2012. Therefore, the ADA played a major role in the little rights I now enjoy in my home country.
In my mind, America is a heaven for persons with disabilities. I wish America had the space and will power to have every disable person live and work in the U.S.
Life in America as a person with disability is like a life far from discrimination, segregation, and marginalization. Independence is one of disable people’s greatest asset in America. Almost everything at my host parents’ home and my school cottage had Braille labels that enables a visually impaired person use them without the help of a sighted person. Unlike other countries, I learned to catch the bus independently in America. America improved my mobility skill, and movement from one place to another is without stress.
Educationally, America is a paradise. Disabled persons have equal access to libraries and other useful educational materials. American teachers treat every student equally regardless of disability. When it comes to sports, disabled persons living in America are fully included. Without discrimination, disabled persons participate in sports such as, goalball, weightlifting, skiing, swimming, etc.
I’ve not been to so many countries, but I do think that America is not just the world superpower in terms of military or politics, but also in inclusion.
I volunteered with a local NGO named Williette SafeHouse, which advocates the rights of persons with disability through a radio program. I served as a radio presenter of the “Williette Speaks” radio program on ELWA radio 94.5.
I have an upcoming project that will feature the equal participation of persons with disabilities and non-disabled persons in a spelling bee competition. The “Kukatonon, We All Are One” project aims at uniting the disable and non-disable communities.
I’ll advise YES alumni who have the intention to advocate the rights of disabled persons through projects to firstly believe that everyone deserve equal opportunities. Their unwavering intention and desire to create an inclusive society also play a major role in the success of their projects. They may have lots of discouraging words from peers and others, but their determination will win them the victory.
I do advise that the creation of projects should be done with everyone in mind. With this, discriminatory projects will be limited.
From my experience as an exchange student in America, I have come to realize that, “disability is not measure by the loss of one’s senses, but by one’s inability to positively contribute to the society and the world at large”, and that “rejection elevates the pains of disability, but acceptance reduces the effectiveness of disability”.