Shortly after I was born, I was diagnosed with rare form of childhood eye cancer, leaving me blind in one eye. The cancer returned again and, although the doctors were able to save my life, they were not able to save my eyesight and I became completely blind by age 8.
As I think back to that time in my life, I'm grateful for the strength and resilience of my young immigrant parents, who were thousands of miles away from family and familiarity. I’m grateful for the world class healthcare I was able to receive at Johns Hopkins. And I’m grateful that my parents were able to take the time off from work to be with me while I received treatments and surgery.
I’m fully aware of how extraordinarily fortunate I was. In fact, I know that many parents have to make the terrible choice between feeding their families and paying for medication, and I know that many parents have to choose between keeping their job and taking their child or loved one to the doctor.
As I celebrate the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I think about the profound impact the ADA has had on my life and about the advocates who fought for my right to be included and to be given opportunity just as any other kid would have. It is in that spirit that I look forward to the next quarter century of advocacy and activism to expand opportunities for all Americans irrespective of ability or disability.
To me, inclusion and opportunity mean affordable healthcare, including mental healthcare. Inclusion and opportunity mean making sure everyone is eligible for sick and safe leave so that working families can take time be with loved ones who are in need. Inclusion and opportunity mean the protecting the rights of pregnant workers to be accommodated at their workplace. And, inclusion and opportunity mean equal pay for equal work.
I am driven by the desire to expand fight opportunities for everyone to fulfill their full potential, as I know I would not be where I am today without the advocates who fought for me.