My name is Janice Harris. When I was 8 years old I nearly drowned at a family reunion in Lake Michigan. After my accident I couldn't walk or talk anymore but my mind was and (with some debate) still is intact. I used to love drawing and dancing. After therapy, I gained the ability to draw again. I'm still working on the dancing. In grammar school I was introduced to computers to talk for me. I started drawing pictures of my friends using the computer.
I was introduced to Access Living in high school through the Empowered Fe Fes Access Living's support group for young woman with disabilities). While I was in high school I lived with my very protective parents who always told me that I could be and do anything I wanted to. Access Living made me know and SEE that this was actually true. Nowhere else (that I know of) employs so many people with disabilities and it’s not a pity thing.
*I have gained knowledge of life beyond disability that allows me to
pursue my dreams with a boldness only afforded to me because at Access Living I've had great role models with disabilities who live their lives with dignity.*
After high school I lost touch with Access Living because I went to
Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (SIUC). While in college I
got to put in practice all that I learned from the Empowered Fe Fes. I
tried to do everything I could do on my own. I shopped alone, tried
talking to guys alone, traveled on the bus alone, and went to my classes on my own. I did this to see if I could manage my life without help and I discovered that I was able to. That brief experience in college helped cement what I learned at Access Living.
An illness forced me to return home from college. After recovering, I
enrolled in The International Academy of Design and Technology to put my love of computers and drawing to use. Next year I hope to graduate with a BA in Visual Communications specializing in Graphic Design. After I get my degree, I want to go back to SIUC for a BA in journalism.
I came back to Access Living to get information on moving out on my own and I met up with Susan Nussbaum. We exchanged information and now I work as a Staff Associate with the Empowered Fe Fes. I tutor the girls on computer skills and help plan and design flyers for meetings.
I can't verbally talk, but my mom still tells me I talk too much. I
can't walk, but because of the Americans with Disabilities Act and
places like Access Living, I know I can and I DO have a very active
social life. I have dreams of traveling to Africa, Brazil, and Cuba
(just to name a few) to report on the conditions there. Nobody or
anything will stop me from pursuing my dreams, goals and passions. All of this is possible for me, even with my disability.
Please support Access Living so people with disabilities will continue to know they have options in life beyond their disability.
P.S. Before I came here, I really didn't know I could have a life like
other people. Access Living made me aware that it was possible. Your contribution will make this possible for others.
115 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60610
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