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For the record, I’m not disabled. I just wanted to tell this story. My advanced apologies to the disabled community.


Some people say that I’m intense or I’m insane. I think I’m driven to fulfill my mission. I refuse to let disability stop me or anyone else. Not anymore.
One night, while I was in college, my friends and I went clubbing downtown. I was drunk, I wandered into the street. A driver was drunk, she didn’t see me stumble my way into the middle of the road. In that accident, I shattered the bones in both of my shins. The doctor had to amputate both of my legs, and my life was changed forever because of it.
I withdrew from school and went back to live with my parents. For the first six months or so, I didn’t want to go anywhere. There was something deep inside of me that was unsettled by my amputation. I couldn’t understand what then, but I slowly came to the realization that I needed to do something about it. So on the 28th of February, I got in my wheelchair and I rolled out of my house and onto the street. I pushed myself past all my childhood landmarks until my arms were sore and tired and sweat dripped down my back. I missed that feeling- the sort of fatigue that only came at the end of a really good work out. Every ache and pain in my muscle was a reminder of what true weakness was. Being disabled wasn’t a weakness, staying locked up was.
When I returned to college, I studied education and paid special attention to how children and education dealt with disability. I went into the world to do what I needed to save a generation from the danger of staying in the shadows. Disabled people have suffered enough in history. I contacted Ms. Sterling and we got to work on laying the groundwork for a new school that could accomplish the monumental task of giving disabled kids opportunities. College taught me that so many people will pass over disabled people because they think we’re incapable, so I want to- no, I needed to create an environment where they feel safe enough to do anything they want.
Out of my vision, Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy came into being. From 6th grade to Senior Year in High School, these kids get to grow up in a community where they have access to all the tools they need to be successful. For the vast majority of them, this is the only time in their whole lives when they don’t have to worry about their disability coming first. Braille is used across the board, teachers are trained in sign language, and wheelchair basketball is the school’s hallmark sport. (We’re six time district champions!) FDR Academy is my haven for disabled students to find the strength they already had.
There’s nothing like when my students wheel by my office on their way out of the school. I enjoy having conversations with my student body president in sign language. Pick up games of wheelchair rugby will always be the best way to end the day. The writing on the wall is in braille; everyday feels like a mission accomplished.

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About the Author

Andrew Walker Watson is a freshman International Studies Major. He loves Brazilian rap music, discovering useless facts, and, naturally, writing. If he could ever stop staring out into space, he would like to start a global movement to change the world and guest host Saturday Night Live.
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