Determined Person Essays

I’ll never forget the feeling of donating my toy to someone who needed it more than I did. As much as I wanted that Lego trooper, his command was needed elsewhere to make some other kid happy. Even though I would have liked to keep the toy, a boy or girl at a homeless shelter would enjoy it five times more than I would. Even of if I got another one, I still would donate it for the better cause and let another kid enjoy it because I already have what I need. I will keep donating things because it’s better to give than receive. No law of life is more important in my life than the gift of giving.
Moving to America and My Law of Life
(Middle School Student)
 
In my life, I have had many ups and downs. Some minor, some major. One of the most suspenseful moments in my life was at seven years old. I never really had a motto or a quote that I lived by until the year of 2008 when things got really confusing. From that moment, I created my own Law of Life, which was:  If I tried hard enough and not quit, I would succeed. Now, all I had to do was follow through with it. Here is the story that shaped my values and my beliefs.
 
It all started the summer of 2008 when my dad acquired a medical position at a nearby hospital. We had to move from the Republic of Georgia to Connecticut, USA. For me, that meant leaving all my family and friends behind, and most intimidatingly, learning a whole new language. I didn’t realize the impact of the transition at first. After all, I was only seven years-old. Nevertheless, the cold and unforgiving reality hit me soon enough. The summer went by in a blur until I was standing in a room full of small children with an extremely amiable second grade teacher. I had not the slightest idea what was going on around me. Kids were talking too fast, their lips moving too swiftly for me to comprehend. Soon enough, my mom kissed me goodbye and I was left alone, isolated. Long story short, I didn’t understand anything throughout the day. I didn’t make any friends, and I came home crying. That routine would continue for a few weeks, devastating me even more. I caught onto a few new words here and there, but the pace was too rapid for me to adapt to as quickly as I hoped I would. I was enrolled in the school’s ESL (English Second Language) program to try to help me learn, but it wasn’t much help. So, I had to turn to something else, but what?
 
My mom was the person who mainly helped me establish my Law of Life and aided me in getting out of the dark trench into which I felt thrown. After she witnessed that I wasn’t really moving forward in my education due to my lack of English skills, she decided to refer me to the library to learn from books instead. My mom made it clear it was my decision, not anybody else’s. That was it; that push was all that I needed to put me on the right track, and then, it was all up to me. I had the choice of either going with the flow and gradually establishing fluency in English (which would take years), or I could take things into my own hands, and try to teach myself. At first, I didn’t want to be reading books and memorizing words while other kids my age played outside with their friends, but, if I wanted to succeed, did I have much of a choice? So, my decision was made, and the library visit was scheduled. It would be the first of many. In the library, I would take out a myriad of Amelia Bedelia and Nate the Great books. The text was large and easy to read which was perfect for my situation. Soon, with my mom’s help, I was pronouncing and learning the meaning of completely new words and phrases.
 
The improvement was immediate. In just a matter of weeks, I was able to communicate on a beginner/intermediate level with my peers, and things finally started to look up. I didn’t stop there. I was determined to graduate from the ESL program and finally be like everyone else. (Fitting in was very important to me at that age). So, from that point on, my mom drove me to library every single day, because I would fly through up to six short stories in a day, and needed daily reinforcements. Then, I would proceed to finish the five-minute homework I had for the day and immerse myself in those short story books, gaining vocabulary, improving my spelling, and increasing my reading speed.
 
In addition to reading, I had discovered another way at which I could learn. One thing that reading didn’t give me was the instructions on how to pronounce the words I read. So, I turned to Disney Channel shows. It might be considered odd, but I would record one thirty-minute episode and replay it up to five times. That way, each time, I would understand a little bit more of the plot and what the characters were saying. I would basically memorize their whole conversations, how they pronounce their words, and in what context I could use them. This also made reading much easier for me since I didn’t have to spell out the words in my head. Rather, I could just remember how it was said and read it fluently. That was an immense step forward in my journey.
 
I graduated the ESL program in the middle of third grade. My teacher stated that I had the quickest time in finishing the program, a matter of only a year and a half. Other kids that I learned with stayed until 5th or maybe even 6th grade to finish. Of course, I wasn’t special. All the other kids there could have progressed at the same rate, but they chose another route.
 
 In the end, I don’t really regret the time I spent sitting with my nose in a book or re-watching a show’s episode until I understood it completely. If I had not tried and tried again to succeed in learning English at the fastest speed possible, I would,  most likely, not have accomplished many of the things I have today. In comparison to six years ago, I’m in a much better place. Even to this day, I still keep some of my old vocabulary/spelling tests from second grade, starting from the first, to the last. It is always fulfilling to see the improvement as well as the long way I have come. By believing in myself and in the idea that if I tried hard enough I would succeed, I slowly etched my Law of Life into everything I do. Many kids think that they aren’t smart, aren’t athletic, or just cannot possibly achieve what they want because they didn’t accomplish it on the first try. It’s not the number of tries that matters, but the eventual success, that is what really counts. From that day on, whenever I fail or fall short, I know that all I have to do is go beyond the boundaries and try harder, again and again. Only then, will I succeed.
 
 My Law of Life can easily be applied to my life now and to my future. The idea itself is quite universal. Anyone can use it. As Jim Rohn, motivational speakers says, “If you really want something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse.”  In my case, whenever I fail at an athletic event or don’t do well on a test, I always keep in mind that I won’t quit, but try once more with a new strategy for success until I get it.  
Courage
(Middle School)
 
What is courage? Courage is the ability to be honest, having the quality of completeness and having strength to be an individual who stands up for what they believe in. In today’s society I am faced with many obstacles on a daily basis, yet because of courage, I can stay strong and keep reaching for the stars. Ernie Davis is one person who I have learned showed courage as a black man. He is a great role model whom I think about when I face obstacles.
Ernest R. Davis was born on December, 14, 1939, in New Salem, Pennsylvania. His parents separated very shortly after his birth, and his father was killed in a car accident. He grew up in poverty living in a coal mining town, Uniontown, Pittsburg. He was raised by his grandparents. He soon carried the name Ernie. He looked up to Jackie Robinson, being one of the first black players to have been on an All-American team. He also looked up to his grandfather because of how wise he was. He encouraged Ernie to go above and beyond and work hard in school because he knew if he didn’t that Ernie would end up in the coal mining business like him. He knew he was going to get somewhere. His mom remarried in 1959 and since she was now able to support him, he moved in with her and his stepfather in Elmira, New York.

Ernie told a story of a day walking along a railroad with one of his friends collecting bottles. Since there were no video games at this time, this is what most boys did for pastime. After collecting bottles, they would usually trade them in and get simple things like candy. One day they ran into a group of white boys. This is was his first inter-racial interaction. They threatened Ernie and his friend to give them the bottles or they would face the consequences. Ernie counted three boys and then five other boys came out the bushes with bats. Ernie’s friend ran away and jumped in a box car of an on-coming train, but Ernie stayed. He stuttered, “No!” and when a boy reached for Ernie turned and ran faster than lightening with them chasing after him. It was in that moment, Ernie realized how fast he was and how much he loved to run. He also realized what he would do with his gift to run. He knew it was hard for blacks to get into college so he was going to use sports to get there. He played football, basketball, and baseball in high school and over 30 colleges recruited him including UCLA and Notre Dame for football. He chose to play football at Syracuse because it was only 90 miles away from home.

Ernie helped Syracuse advance to the 1960 National Championship in the Cotton Bowl where they played and defeated Texas in his senior year.  Ernie scored two touch towns in that game. One on offense and one on defense when he ran an 86 yard interception after coming back in the game with a hamstring injury. The injury worsened every time he was tackled or punched purposely in the leg by the opposing team. The referees did nothing to stop the fouls.
On the way to the game he saw young black boys working in fields. As his bus drove along he also saw a sign that said, “Go Ernie!”  He saw a small number of black fans in the crowds at the game. He thought for a moment and remembered how during the West Virginia game, the players had to keep their helmets on at all times to protect them from flying bottles from the crowd. Just because their team looked different. There were only 3 black players on that team. His coach had told him not to cross the end zone because he was “colored” so he sent in someone else into the huddle when their team got close to the end zone.  On one run, Ernie refused to run out-of-bounds and crossed the end zone to score a touchdown. Football wasn’t just a game anymore, but Ernie believed that he could make a difference in playing it. His exact words were, “It matters what you are playing for.”  He wanted to create hope for those boys in the field, those people sitting in the bleachers, and the millions watching at home. He didn’t want any bottles to be thrown anymore. He was the first African American to win the Heisman trophy, which is awarded to the best college football player in the United States. He got the attention of President John F. Kennedy and got to meet him after the ceremony. He was the number one draft pick for the Cleveland Brown, which was his number one choice.

Sadly, Ernie never got to play professional football because he died, May, 18, 1963, of Leukemia. Ten thousand people attended the funeral where a telegram from John F.  Kennedy was read. “He was an outstanding young man of great character who served and, my hope is, will continue to serve as an inspiration to young people of this country.” Over 40 years later he is still inspiring to people like me.

Today I write to say that Ernie Davis set a precedent for people to follow and that he makes it possible to believe I can achieve my goals in life. He faced much prejudice but that never stopped him and it shouldn’t stop me. He had strength and courage that helped him stay true to his integrity. In his honor the Cleveland Browns retired his #45 jersey.​
   
Losing Yourself in Serving Others
(High School Student)
 
“The most sublime act is to set another before you.” Spoken by English poet William Blake, this quote reveals what I believe is a very important – if not the most important – thing a person can do. Putting others first involves the laying aside of our own interests and then willingly doing something for another person's benefit. This task, however, is not an easy one to perform; human nature itself has the tendency to focus on self-related matters. If we are to put others before ourselves, then we must break away from that egotistical way of thinking and consider the value of other people and their lives. Furthermore, as I begin to put others before my own interests, I feel my life has a meaningful purpose and direction.

There was an article written by Anne Keegan, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune Magazine, about a man named George. He had no home, and only owned the clothes he wore. He often stayed at the YMCA, which gave him a place to sleep at night. Sometimes on a cold morning, he would go to the warm police station and sit there for shelter from the freezing temperatures. There, he became friends with some police officers, who would occasionally buy a hot coffee for George. George also received a free breakfast every morning from Billy, a local restaurant owner. As the Christmas season approached, the police officers decided they would invite George to spend Christmas Day with them and their families. In addition to this, they surprised George with some presents – something which greatly astounded him. As George unwrapped each present, he could hardly believe that they were his to keep forever. As the officers gave George a ride home to the YMCA after the Christmas get-together, George requested that they stopped by Billy's diner. When the group reached Billy's diner, George took the precious, rewrapped gifts he received and walked into the diner. Upon greeting Billy, George earnestly said: “You've always been real good to me, Billy. Now I can be good to you. Merry Christmas!” As he said this, he gave all of his gifts to Billy.

This true story is simply remarkable for obvious reasons. To know that a man who possessed next to nothing gave away all of his priceless presents to another person – one who was not in need – really does reveal a truth that transcends material objects, success, and earthly fame. George, out of his poverty, gave away all his gifts, which were something he probably had never received. This is a fantastic example of putting others before self-centered interests. To me, a billionaire who halfheartedly gives thousands of dollars to charity cannot compare to the humble and generous sacrifice that George made. The generosity that was showed to him prompted him to be giving to another. This moving story is such an inspiration to me because I easily take what I have for granted, and tend to focus on the things I do not have. Hearing real life stories such as this one reminds me that living for myself is futile; it makes my life meaningless and leaves me feeling void. When I begin to shift my focus from myself to others, I get a feeling that is hard to describe with words. I realize that reaching out to others fills the void in my being that is present when I am just living for myself.

Although I do not have a phenomenal or memorable example that I can share, I do see the ramifications in my everyday life of living for myself versus living to serve others. As I reflect of the topic of putting others first, I find that selfless service can be put into practice in our normal daily lives. For instance, when I knew my mother had a busy day and developed a headache that would not leave her, I took the initiative of washing the dishes. This is certainly nothing to brag about; doing the dishes is not something involving great sacrifice. Yet after I did this simple, menial job, I felt that I was helping someone who needed it. I felt that I was not vainly living for myself; having compassion on another person actually made me feel more fulfilled. However, when I focus solely on making my own life better – by buying more fashionable clothes, spending more time with my group of friends rather than talking to someone who was lonely at school, or focusing on my desires while being blind to the needs and hurts of others – I end up having this hollow void in me that no material or cosmopolitan element can satisfy. Life then feels pointless, vacant, and insubstantial. The more I try to fill this void with material things, the more the size and intensity of this void increases.
There is an example of people trying to fill the void they feel that I see almost every day. Take the typical American teenage girl. Most girls these days, myself included, are not pleased with certain aspects of their outward appearance; perhaps it is their weight, stature, or eye color. So, some spend a lot of money on high-end makeup products, fake eyelashes, or other things that help to enhance their looks. Yet, even after using all these products, many girls are still left feeling not good enough, and feel they could improve even more, which causes them to spend more time and energy on making themselves look better. However, I also see girls who are not so preoccupied with material things but invest their energy in developing friendships with others and helping those in need. These are the people who seem much more content and at peace with themselves.

Something that continues to baffle me is the selflessness of those who live in poverty. There have been many scientific studies that revealed that poor people give more than the people who are well off. How can this be? It makes no logical sense that a person who has almost nothing can cheerfully give to another person who is just as much in need as he or she is. Yet, this happens. It is humorous to think of how most rich people having many of their desires met are not truly satisfied and happy, but a person in poverty, having practically none of their basic needs met, can humbly give and still be content and joyful. There must be an answer to this: putting another person before self-centered desires is a powerful action that not only benefits the one who receives, but also gives a sense of wellbeing and fulfillment to the one who gives.

Focusing on the needs of others first does not have to involve grandiose sacrifices. It is something that can be done in everyday life, and is something that, I believe, should be done daily. Anyone can serve. Service can be as little as washing the dishes, tutoring someone who needs help, or sitting next to someone who is alone. There is something indescribable about lowering oneself and exalting another person. It greatly helps the person in need, and also leaves the giver with a feeling of satisfaction. As Martin Luther King Jr. wisely said: “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
​The Gift of Giving
(Middle School)
I always thought it was better to receive than to give, but when my family went to donate clothes and other items to the homeless shelter, I realized that it’s better to give than to receive. One year ago we went to the homeless shelter in Norwich and donated toys and clothes. It was my birthday and my parents wanted me to donate all of the clothing that I had outgrown as well as toys I no longer played with. I didn’t really mind because the new toys I got for my birthday were better, especially one in particular.

My favorite gift was the Lego Star War Figurine. I really enjoy building Legos, but my mom didn’t want me to start building it while we were in the car because she was worried I’d loose the pieces in the seats. I liked just looking at the box anyway, seeing the clone trooper on great, big, gray walker. It was a challenge not to open the box, but I was able to resist. However, I could picture myself at home building the walker and then finishing and marching around with the clone-riding walker pretending to slay the enemy.

We finally got to the homeless shelter and it was a very sad sight to see. It was kind of dark and gloomy and at first I didn’t even see the people inside. However, when we went further inside, I saw some kids and adults moping around the dark room with frowns on their faces and nothing to do. The sight of their faces was saddening to me and made me feel very pitiful and then I decided to do something I thought I’d never do. I took hold of my Lego set and dropped it right into the donation bin. After I did that, my sadness turned into pride raising my spirits ten fold. I felt like a good and generous kid in this dark place. I felt like I was the sun shining on a bright summer day.
Student reading her essay at
spring celebration banquet.
​"Ethics in action creates character."

Students with disabilities sharing tips for success

We often hear about the problems young people with disabilities face—physical obstacles, social rejection, academic failure, and medical crises. Yet some people do overcome significant challenges and lead successful lives. What does success mean to them and how do they achieve it? What internal characteristics do these individuals possess and what external factors have been present in their lives? What advice do they have to help young people build personal strengths to overcome the challenges they no doubt will face?

Included in this brochure are insights from successful young people and adults with disabilities associated with DO-IT. These insights may help young people learn to lead self-determined lives. But what is self-determination? There are many definitions to choose from. The following definition is concise and incorporates a number of common themes found in other definitions.

Self-determination is a combination of skills, knowledge, and beliefs that enable a person to engage in goal-directed, self-regulated, autonomous behavior. An understanding of one's strengths and limitations together with a belief in oneself as capable and effective are essential to self-determination. When acting on the basis of these skills and attitudes, individuals have greater ability to take control of their lives and assume the role of successful adults. (Field, S., Martin, J., Miller, R., Ward, M., & Wehmeyer, M., Self-determination for persons with disabilities: A position statement of the division on career development and transition," Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 21(2), 113-128.)

Gaining control over your life involves learning and then successfully applying a number of self-determination skills, such as goal setting, understanding your abilities and disabilities, problem solving, and self-advocacy. The personal process of learning, using, and self-evaluating these skills in a variety of settings is at the heart of self-determination.

The content of this publication is organized around advice synthesized from hundreds of responses of the successful young people and adults with disabilities who contributed to the following topics:

  • Define success for yourself.
  • Set personal, academic, and career goals.
  • Keep your expectations high.
  • Understand your abilities and disabilities.
  • Play to your strengths.
  • Develop strategies to meet your goals.
  • Use technology as an empowering tool.
  • Work hard. Persevere. Be flexible.
  • Develop a support network. Look to family, friends, and teachers.

Perhaps young people with disabilities will find the experiences of others useful as they set their course toward successful, self-determined lives.

Define success for yourself.

People define success in many ways. Several successful people with disabilities use these words:

  • Success is defined by who we are, what we believe in, and what we think it means to be successful. For some it is money; for others it could be relationships, family, jobs, religion, or education. I believe that success is reaching my own personal dreams. I'm not done with my dreams, but know that I have been successful so far because I've worked toward my goals regardless of my disability. –college student who is deaf
  • Success is possessing the capability for self-determination. Self determination is the ability to decide what I want to do with my life, and then to act on that decision. –high school student who is blind
  • A successful life is one where I can be actively engaged in creative activities that make a contribution to the lives of others. Success is a kind of by-product and NOT an end in itself! –professor who is blind
  • To me, having a successful life is being able to do things independently for myself, and not always have someone there to do things for me. It's achieving my goals on my own terms and at my own pace. –high school student with a mobility and orthopedic impairment

Set personal, academic, and career goals. Keep your expectations high.

Below, successful young people and adults share their views about how they set goals and maintain high expectations:

  • A combination of people and events has helped me maintain high standards. This all started during the summer months when my mother and neighbor friend pushed me to improve my academic skills. At the time, it wasn't high standards that I was working for, but rather escaping embarrassment. For me, I wanted no one to know I had a disability and would have done most anything to hide it. Summer study sessions provided a stepping stone for future success in high school and college. Success builds upon itself. This was my start to expecting to do well in school.
  • I'm just stubborn and I refuse to lower my expectations. –college student with a mobility and orthopedic impairment
  • My parents helped me maintain high expectations for myself. They taught me never to say, "I can't," at anything I try. –high school student with cerebral palsy
  • My mobility teacher made me confident in my ability to learn, which has helped me maintain high expectations. –college student who is blind
  • My parents expected me to do as well as other students without disabilities, if not better. My parents actively sought help for my hearing impairment in the forms of speech therapists, audiologists, and teachers to make sure that I had an equal chance in public schools. Before choosing a new house, my parents did a lot of research on the local schools. –college student who is deaf
  • My brother and sister had one single expectation that determined my success: I was not treated differently in any way because I could not see. –computer scientist who is blind
  • I am still in the process of learning to stretch but I start by identifying what I can already do, what I am comfortable doing and feel good about. Then I say to myself (sometimes in writing) I can do more. I can do better, what is it BEYOND what I already can do that I want to be able to do? Then I write down goals or ideas and make efforts to stretch myself. –adult with hearing and mobility impairments
  • Very early on, I became the stubborn guy I am today. "Can't" wasn't in my vocabulary, which, of course, was helped by a set of parents who offered me opportunities to do most of the things everyone else did and encouraged me to set very high standards. By now, I do realize that everyone has a path in life that their unique set of talents and lack thereof gives them. I will never be mistaken for an athlete. However, knowing what talents I do have, I press myself to be the best historian, philosopher, and writer that I can be. –college student with a mobility impairment
  • I set personal, academic, and career goals by knowing where my limits are and working around them. If someone says I can't do something, and I haven't tried it before, that just makes me more determined to prove that someone wrong. If I fail, at least I tried. That's what counts. –college student with mobility impairments
  • One of the main reasons people do not set high expectations is fear of failure…. Start by having achievable goals that are not long-term. Develop week long, achievable goals that lead to success. Build on each success and make each goal a little higher. Think of it as a metaphorical high jump. You cannot set the bar too high in the beginning or you just set yourself up for failure. –adult with hearing and mobility impairments

Understand your abilities and disabilities. Play to your strengths.

People with disabilities who consider themselves successful generally accept their disabilities as one aspect of who they are, do not define themselves by their disabilities, recognize that they are not responsible for their disabilities, and know that they are not inherently impaired. They recognize their responsibility for their own happiness and future. Below are insights from successful people with disabilities:

  • My personal opinion about disabilities is that everyone is disabled. It just so happens that there is a certain group whose disabilities are more obvious than others. –high school student with mobility and visual impairments
  • My parents helped me learn to accept responsibility for myself by treating me the same as my siblings. They gave me the same punishments and chores, and they expected me to do well in school. –high school student with speech, hearing, mobility, and orthopedic impairments
  • Do not make people feel sorry for you or pity you. Get people to view you as an able person who is capable of anything within your reach if the doors of opportunity are open. –graduate student with a hearing impairment
  • Clearly disabilities can be obstacles. However, they ought to be focused on as obstacles which problem solving can surmount. Sometimes trade-offs do exist. I once wanted to go into biochemistry, but my lack of fine-motor skills and general distrust of lab partners made me realize that I wanted something I could do on my own—hence, history-philosophy. Perhaps I could have found adaptive technology to help me in biology and chemistry, but I had other loves as well, so I went for them. Admittedly, I rerouted, but for those who are determined to be biochemists and such, most obstacles can be overcome by abilities. –college student with mobility impairment
  • Focus on the ABILITY in disability more than the dis. If we can do that, then we are more apt to succeed. Also, know your limits. If you don't know what you can or can't do, how do you expect other people to know? Plan for success by using more of the cans than the can'ts. –college student with mobility impairment

Develop strategies to meet your goals.

Successful people use creative strategies to reach their goals. They look at options and make informed decisions. Successful planning requires that you know your rights and responsibilities and strengths and challenges; set goals; work toward those goals; and use tools and resources available to you. One key skill for success is self-advocacy. Being able to self-advocate requires that a young person become an expert on their disability, know what specific services and help they need, and be able to use strategies to obtain this help and support. One's life should not be defined by the assumptions of others. Insights by successful people with disabilities are shared below.

  • We don't have to be victims of other people's assumptions. We are only victims if we choose not to take charge of a situation. If you are blind and someone grabs your arm and pushes you across the street and you don't say anything, but would like to, then you are letting the other person force the result of his assumptions on you. If you, on the other hand, either say, "thank you, but I'll be fine," or, "let me take your arm," depending on what you would like to do, then you are taking charge and aren't a victim. –adult who is blind
  • I could never achieve anything without writing things down. Sometimes I use a calendar, sometimes a blank sheet of paper or my notebook, and sometimes the computer. But without putting my plans on paper, I am not able to get things done. I use a prioritization process. I write out everything that I need to do, including the small things like getting dressed, taking medications, and riding the bus. Then I mark the things that must get done today or tomorrow as opposed to later, and I prioritize in order of importance. The list I make is constantly changing but I get a lot of satisfaction crossing off accomplished steps. It also helps me to break down larger tasks into smaller ones. I make lists, plan how to do the things on the lists, then use the lists to motivate me to get things done. I never leave home without it! –adult with mobility and hearing impairments
  • The more often I express my needs and preferences, the easier it becomes, and the easier it becomes, the more comfortable I am, and that makes people more comfortable, and on and on and on... and somewhere in the midst of this is the need to be both polite and clear. –adult who is deaf
  • The way to preempt or erase assumptions is to tell people what you need rather than let them act out what they think you need. It is okay to say what you need help with. I think that is part of being independent. And just by being out and about and going about your normal business you also show people what you don't need help with. –adult who is blind

Use technology as an empowering tool.

Being technologically competent has become an avenue to academic and career success. Computer technology is one of the most powerful tools available to individuals with disabilities. Technology, including computers, adaptive technology, and the Internet, can help maximize independence, productivity and participation. It can lead to high levels of success—personally, socially, academically, and professionally. As reported by successful individuals with disabilities:

  • The computer helps me organize my thoughts. I can read and make improvements with ease. I can check all of my papers for spelling errors before I send them. I am a really BAD speller. –high school student with a learning disability
  • I use a combination of a palmtop note-taker computer and a desktop computer to write. Without them I'd be lost. –college student with mobility and health impairment
  • Without computers or the Net I would not be doing many things that I'm doing today. For instance, I am involved in a writing forum on the Net that lets writers talk about writing and share their pieces of literature with each other. Since I want to be a writer this has been very helpful. –high school student with Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder
  • One of my two or three best friends—maybe best next to my wife—and I met on the Internet, and we are not only friends but close working colleagues. –professor who is blind
  • Technology is not a nicety; it is a necessity. Get it, learn it, and use it. –college student who is blind

Work hard. Persevere. Be flexible.

Knowing and valuing yourself, setting goals, and planning help build important foundations, but action is required to make your dreams come true. To take control of your life it is necessary to choose and take appropriate action. Take charge. Move forward. Sometimes students with disabilities need to work harder to achieve the same level of success as their peers. As reported by one student who is blind:

I accepted the fact that I must work harder than other students to get the same grade.

But, learning to work hard has a positive side:

Sometimes I think that all of us with disabilities have an advantage over those who have things come easier to them. Whatever it is we want, we have to want it and then work for it. That necessary desire promotes drive to accomplish, succeed, or achieve. Others around us may be content to float, or do the minimum most of the time, but not us. For us, having what everybody else has is an accomplishment, and having tasted success we want to keep succeeding.

The willingness to take risks is critical to achieving success. As reported by one young person with a mobility impairment:

I keep going when people tell me I can't. I am not afraid to try things and I don't give up. My parents took me everywhere and I did everything like a normal kid. I have a good friend from kindergarten who is able bodied, and she knows me so well that we do all sorts of stuff that people might not think I could do, but we come up with a flexible plan and we do it.

Advice about risk taking from successful people with disabilities includes:

  • Nothing worthwhile comes without risk. Without risk, success cannot be achieved.
  • Never give up.
  • Do not pity yourself for what cards you have been dealt. It happened... now move on.
  • That moment of insecurity is worth the achievement in the end. It is important to keep that in mind throughout life.

Develop a support network. Look to family, friends, and teachers.

Successful adults with disabilities report that they were supported in youth by opportunities for inclusion, high expectations from adults, disability-related accommodations that de-emphasized their differences, promotion of autonomy, encouragement of friendships, and support from caring adults. On the other hand, their progress was inhibited by segregation, treatment that highlighted their differences, restricted opportunities for independence, social isolation, and social rejection.

Below, successful individuals with disabilities share examples of how they stay actively involved.

  • I am in my school's band and on our youth leadership team. In the past, I was part of the speech team and student council. I think being a part of clubs has given me confidence and boosted my self-esteem. I enjoy music, and I think it is an awesome feeling to be able to go out and be a part of my school's band to cheer on the sports teams and to contribute to a music concert. –college student who is blind
  • I have been involved in the drama club at my school. –high school student who uses a wheelchair for mobility
  • I have been involved in internships. They give me experiences that are needed for jobs. I've also been part of a city hall committee. This will help me know how professional life is. –college student with mobility and health impairment

No one achieves success alone. The comments below provide examples of how successful individuals with disabilities have found, accessed, and used resources to help them achieve success personally, socially, academically, and professionally.

  • Most of the resources I use I either found through word of mouth (from parents, friends, and others I know), from newsletters, or from the Internet. Sometimes, I find out about something useful by accident, and at other times I ask around or look on the Internet for a specific resource. I often ask others whose opinion I respect for advice, especially when I am making a making a major decision. I subscribe to a few newsletters and magazines that provide information on topics that interest me and keep lists of useful websites on my home page. –Ph.D. candidate who is blind
  • I ask questions. –high school student with a brain injury
  • One of my resources is my best friend. When I take her along with me, I can tell that people who don't know me feel comfortable being around me. My friend and I think that there isn't a way that I can't be a part of what she is doing. Being with her is one of the ways I use a natural resource. –high school student with mobility, orthopedic, and speech impairments

Videos

This brochure summarizes content that is covered in the DO-IT video series: Taking Charge 1: Three Stories of Success and Self-DeterminationTaking Charge 2: Two Stories of Success and Self-Determination, and Taking Charge 3: Five Stories of Success and Self-Determination. An online version may be freely viewed at the DO-IT Videos page, or purchased in DVD format.

About DO-IT

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.

Grants and gifts fund DO-IT publications, videos, and programs to support the academic and career success of people with disabilities. Contribute today by sending a check to DO-IT, Box 354842, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-4842.

Your gift is tax deductible as specified in IRS regulations. Pursuant to RCW 19.09, the University of Washington is registered as a charitable organization with the Secretary of State, state of Washington. For more information call the Office of the Secretary of State, 1-800-322-4483.

To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:

DO-IT
University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
doit@uw.edu
www.uw.edu/doit
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners

Acknowledgment

Funding for the creation of this publication was provided by Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, a nonprofit foundation jointly funded by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation of Japan and its American affiliates with the mission of contributing to a better world for us all by helping young people with disabilities, through technology, maximize their potential and participation in society.

Copyright © 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2001, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.

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