Since the summer before my freshman year of college, I have worked in football recruiting for an SEC school. When I first started I was somewhat awkward, extremely uncomfortable with public speaking, and was somewhat content with just being involved enough to have a full resume. Never all in.
As I became more involved and committed to my job, I developed a passion for what I was doing and why I was doing it. Through having to talk to so many types people over my time spent at UGA I began to develop a love for people in general.
I now love to get to know all types of people and really try to see life from their point of view. I also learned how to carry myself in a professional manner and demand respect no matter the situation, especially within a male dominated field. I value the opportunity to mentor younger women who have a goal to work in sports and train by example as to what they can do. I may sound like I know it all, but that’s definitely not the case.
I have a love of learning and using poor experiences and criticism to make myself a better person overall. I love learning from other people the most though. Other people’s lives just bring a perspective into my life that I would have never had any other way. Getting to know someone else opens your mind in an unexpected way and think about everyday situations in a new and inventive manner.
Other people are the best way to improve yourself.
I didn’t believe my 14 year old self when a physician told me I was to be reliant on a mobility scooter or wheelchair by 25. I laughed and played it off reassuring myself I was different than the rest.
My FSH muscular dystrophy progression wasn’t as noticeable; I could still run and play competitive sports surely my physical state wouldn’t succumb to that. Many nights were spent balling my eyes out scared of being defined by an assistive device. I refused to accept reality blind to what all the research said. Why was I so afraid of wheels as legs? I would become another statistic, another check off the researcher’s list, another burden to the able-bodied. Something about being labeled “disabled” or “handicapped” all of which my core defied pierced my thoughts.
The best decision my 22 year old self made was to face this ugly monster of a mental obstacle and purchase a 3 wheeled, red, shiny scooter. The last 9 months have been the antithesis of everything I expected. I am alive, inspired, and ebullient. My scooter takes me places I would have never considered in a million years.
There are tons of perks with wheels: people holding doors open for you, front row seats, free parking and in general people lending a hand. However, not to say getting wheels has been all kittens and rainbows. Scooters require regular maintenance and parts break or loosen from regular wear and tear. It’s a machine, and machines break. Downtime can be weeks or months depending on the part. Being 100% reliant on electronics for mobility is scary when insurance is not able to supply a backup and this is the reality of the situation.
Now that they see me rollin (not hatin’), I’m even more cognizant of uneven surfaces, curb cuts, ramps, elevators and overall ADA accessibility. My scooter takes a hard beating in the city of Atlanta, so I dedicate my free time to advocate for change. The way I advocate is by wandering around the city, taking pictures/videos of areas that need improvement and submitting claims through the Department of Public Works.
The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design notates that there must be an accessible path of travel. We are at a pivotal point in architectural history were we are required to start designing for wheels first. If we design for wheels first, we are saying yes to inclusion. If we design for wheels first, we believe in equality.
Another way I advocate for disability awareness is by taking on outdoor physical adventures. The last 2 years my family coined the term “Piggybacks for a Cure”. My brother and sister have carried me piggyback through two Reebok Spartan Sprints and raised awareness through NBC’s American Ninja Warrior. Our next piggyback adventure in October is partnered with Vestigo where we will conquer Georgia’s 78 mile section of the Appalachian Trail.
My belief is to show the world that regardless of your physical condition, you don’t just give up on life rather you look for outlets to inspire action and lobby for change.
Read Carden’s first story called Equal Access here!