Reeve Foundation launches new campaign to combat stigma

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on April 23, 2019 # Christopher and Dana, Mobility, News, Events

There are over 61 million Americans living with a disability, representing the largest minority group in the U.S. Despite strength in numbers, the voices of the paralysis community have become diminished and their achievements are overshadowed by the misperceptions on what it means to live with a disability.

We want the world to see every individual for who they really are and look beyond their injury or disability. As Christopher Reeve taught us, one thing cannot define everything.

Today, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation launched a national campaign -- See Us -- to gather the largest collection of stories from individuals living with paralysis and ignite a national conversation that challenges the stigmas and stereotypes wrongfully assigned to our community.

The Reeve Foundation appointed three campaign ambassadors to be featured in a national PSA for See Us (ChristopherReeve.org/seeus) that highlights the misperceptions they face as someone living with paralysis. The PSA was created by purpose-driven agency OBERLAND. The ambassadors include:

Jessie Chin: Born in Staten Island, Jessie is a student at City College who aspires to become a high-school counselor to help at-risk youth. He is also a “sit down” comedian who has performed at comedy clubs across the NYC-area and credits the power of laughter for his positive outlook on life. He sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of gun violence at a young age.

Just because someone is living with a disability does not make them less of a person. My life does not stop, from attending college to performing comedy in front of large audiences. I want the world to see me simply for who I am—a son, brother, friend, boyfriend, student, athlete, model and comedian. Everyone faces adversity, in fact, it’s something we all have in common. How we deal with our circumstances defines us.—Jessie Chin

Laura Grace Beck: Self-described adventurer and activist, Laura lives in Chattanooga, TN, with her husband and two German Shepherds. Since sustaining a cervical spinal cord injury in 2016 as a result of motor vehicle accident, Laura continues to travel, explore the outdoors, and share her journey on Instagram at @anhonestquad.

I want to see a world in which it’s no longer curious to see a wheelchair user everywhere you go and for the community to feel empowered, and not let their ‘disability’ define them. I want an accessible world, a world full of adaption that opens the doors for us to have the same opportunities that every other individual is given. See Us, to me, is about opening the eyes of others who look the other way, fighting for inclusivity, hoping for a cure, and never letting our disability stop us from living our very best life possible.—Laura Grace Beck

Ian Malesiewski: Currently a freshman at the University of Miami, Ian sustained a spinal cord injury in 2016 while wrestling at the Cadet World Team Trials. He was a Division 1 wrestling and football recruit with aspirations of becoming a collegiate athlete, but his life changed in an instant after being paralyzed from the neck down. He is pursuing a neuroscience degree and using his platform to advocate for increased rights and resources for individuals with disabilities.

I want to show people how paralysis doesn’t define my life or derail my future. I want to be seen as a dedicated and disciplined human being, just as I was prior to my injury. We’re all people, just with a little less movement.—Ian Malesiewski

Join the movement: Visit ReeveSeeUs.org to upload your story and learn more about the campaign. You can also go to Instagram or Facebook right now and use the hashtag #ReeveSeeUs to tell the world who you are with a powerful photo or video and share your story in the caption.

The time for change is now and it starts with your story. We need your words to spark a movement that is long overdue. Tell the world -- don't just look at us. See Us.