“It’s not necessarily a tragedy or inspiration in and of itself…disability is a part of human diversity just like race, gender, and sexuality.”
Nearly 15% of the world’s population has a disability, yet disabilities are rarely discussed in society. Diego Mariscal, CEO and Chief Disabled Person at 2Gether-International.org, says, “I was frustrated that through my education — I wasn’t exposed to other people with disabilities…I was always the only one who was disabled.” Because of his frustrations and the opportunity he recognized to help others, Mariscal launched 2Gether-International.org.
2Gether-International.org is a network of young disabled leaders from around the world. “We started a series of workshops that were all about educating students about disability…within a few years the workshops went nationwide.” 2Gether-International’s goal is to bring the more than 1 billion people with a disability together and to “empower and unify young disabled people to become actors of change.”
By bringing people with disabilities together, they can have a greater positive impact on each others lives and help others gain a better understanding of who they are and how to empower them. In his experiences and those of his peers, people without physical disabilities often see those with physical disabilities in one of two ways:
- As someone who suffered a great tragedy and is now working to overcome it, or
- An inspiration and a motivational figure, which puts disabled people on an unrealistic pedestal.
These two misconceptions have impacted Mariscal and other people with disabilities their entire lives. “I literally once a week will get stopped on the street by a random person just for walking the way I do, and someone will tell me, “you’re such an inspiration, thank you for living your life,” says Mariscal. “It’s not necessarily a tragedy or inspiration in and of itself…disability is a part of human diversity just like race, gender, and sexuality.”
Technology plays an important role in the lives of people with disabilities according to Mariscal. “It allows us to connect with one another. It allows us to live our lives in a more independent way. It allows us to live our lives outside of our physical body.” Due to his efforts, more people are aware of disabilities, and more disabled people are able to connect with others who understand their disability and will work to empower them, not treat them as the survivor of a tragedy or a motivational figure.
People without disabilities do have an important role to play in this movement. “The role of non-disabled people in this movement is to empower people with disabilities and also to ensure that disability is part of the conversation,” says Mariscal. Learn more about Diego Mariscal’s efforts here on their Facebook page and at 2Gether-International.org.
Listen to the full interview here: