This week marked my first official day of work. I’ll be interning this summer with Wal-Mart in their Federal Government Relations office. So far I am really enjoying myself. The highlights of my week included going to the Hill to do a bit of lobbying and Friday, where my office took part in the video conference of Wal-mart’s annual shareholders meeting. However, this was not your average boring business meeting. Instead it was hosted by Will Smith (of Fresh Prince and Men in Black fame) and featured performances by The Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys.
One of the best parts of my week occurred on Wednesday, where I got to attend a meeting hosted by Ambassador Kennedy-Smith at the Kennedy Center. The meeting was attended by several other interns and young people in DC with disabilities and centered on disability and the arts. Ambassador Smith heads a program called VSA, which I am slightly embarrassed to admit I hadn’t heard of until this past week. It is a pretty incredible program though, as it provides access to different arts for people with disabilities.
I felt slightly out of place at the meeting, as although I love and appreciate the arts, I am not an artist by any means. The only place I sing is in the shower and I have still yet to master the stick figure. My passion has always been for sports. I discovered wheelchair sports at age 5 from a slightly older girl at my doctor’s office who has my same disability. I have competed in everything from track to swimming to my favorite and current sport, wheelchair basketball.
Sports have opened so many doors for me and have taken me all over the country and world. It has even influenced my college choice, as I attend the University of Alabama as a collegiate athlete. I have often reflected on how different my light would be if I had never heard about disabled sports programs. Who knows if I would be as independent and driven as I am today?
That’s why I admire so much about VSA and the vision that Ambassador Smith has. These programs are all about opening doors for people with disabilities and providing them opportunities that their able-bodied peers often take for granted. Whether you want to pick up a violin or a baseball there should be a program in existence that enables you to do so. Oftentimes there already is, but the only problem is getting to word out so everybody knows what is out there. Hopefully these programs will continue to grow more disabled artists and athletes will gain recognition. Then VSA and wheelchair basketball, among others, will be household names throughout America.