By Brittany Dejean, Founder and Executive Director, AbleThrive
When I was 12 years old, my dad and younger brother were in a car accident. My brother was killed and my dad was paralyzed. We were lucky to go to a great spinal cord injury rehab hospital where people showed us that my dad had a future as a quadriplegic. Once we knew what was possible to adapt and thrive, we had a vision to work towards. It wasn’t an easy journey, but with the right support, we all made the necessary adaptations and established a new normal. The fact that we lived near a top hospital, that my dad had health insurance, that he stayed in inpatient rehab for five months, and that we have a strong family support system made all the difference. My dad re-learned daily tasks and now lives completely independently, drives himself to work every day and even danced with me at my wedding.
When I share this with people who have no experience with disability, they are often surprised. It’s not common knowledge that people with disabilities can live active and fulfilling lives. I also didn’t realize at the time that the support we had wasn’t guaranteed for others in our situation. The average time spent in a rehab after a spinal cord injury has plummeted to 37 days, even if you have insurance, and some people don’t make it to rehab at all. There’s even less time to adjust to life with a disability than before.
It’s 2017, yet the awareness and perceptions of disability in society are not reflective of the lives and achievements of people with disabilities. This is dangerous, as families enter the world of disability, they often fall for negative stereotypes and assumptions that limit the power and potential of people with disabilities.
This is exacerbated by how difficult it is to navigate resources and support in the disability sector. Whether it’s a spinal cord injury or some other disability, families like mine are on their own to navigate resources and not everyone lives near great hospitals like we did. Sure, the internet makes resources more accessible, but how are you supposed to know where to look or what to put in a search bar? Everything has been thrown up without considering how to structure or simplify access. There are incredible articles, videos, products and programs that are game-changing, but they are buried all over the internet, leaving families uninformed and underserved.
There are people all over the world with this type of disability or some other disability who sit in their homes and think they have no future. There’s people like me and their family members who can’t be there for them because they don’t even realize what’s possible.
That’s why we need AbleThrive, a one-stop platform to make it easier for families to adapt and thrive with a disability.
Our new platform is serving people with paralysis and their families to start and will grow to reach more disabilities moving forward. When you sign up for an account, you specify your interests and the mobility of your fingers, arms, trunk and legs, to receive a customized feed of resources that we’ve curated from our growing network of more than 185 organizations, companies, hospitals and blogs in 13 countries.
Learn how others cope with their disability or explore accessible destinations for your next vacation. Learn how people approach dating or how caregivers manage their day-to-day.
I work for a day where you hear the word ‘quadriplegic’ and you think of someone like my dad– living his life to the fullest.
We live in a world where Netflix will tell you what movie to watch next, but we leave families like mine to figure everything out on their own. It’s time to completely revolutionize how people approach life with a disability. Join us so that no one is left to think their life is over before it actually is.
For more information visit AbleThrive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brittany Déjean is the founder and executive director of AbleThrive. Brittany’s dad was paralyzed in a car accident when she was 12 years old. A 2008 Harvard University graduate, Brittany has worked with disability communities in five countries, giving her a sense of the common challenges faced globally. She specializes in building allies for people with disabilities by debunking misconceptions associated with disability to foster a more inclusive society. Brittany is a 2014 Echoing Green Global Fellow, a 2017 Global Good Fund Fellow and was named on SE Enablers Top 100 Social Entrepreneurs.