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  • Writer's pictureTyra Randle

To be Seen, To Be Heard, To be Understood

By Tyra Randle

Being a disabled person with a spinal cord injury is difficult, now add being a black disabled person with a SCI. In the black community healthcare is already seen for its unequal treatment of its patients. As a whole confronting racial and ethnic disparities in the healthcare system needs to be addressed. Studies in the past have found that racial and ethnic minorities receive a lower quality of health care while also having a higher death rate than non-minorities.

Since 2005 27.1% of all SCI in the US have been African Americans. I’m not going to have my whole blog be about statistics. I’ve asked another friend that has a spinal cord injury and an African American how his life has been living as a black person with an SCI. As once you become injured your world changes forever. My medical background came in handy after my injury on what to do medically with my body. My medical background never prepared me for anything else. Sadly, the only place in the black community knows where to get help is the state. Quite frankly the state doesn’t care as long as their making money. What other resources are there to help me succeed and not hinder me or weigh me down? I never received a pamphlet or booklet about any organization that could help me once I left rehab. What rights do I have? What if I go somewhere and it’s not accessible what legal rights do I have then? None of this is taught to us as a new SCI it’s basically all word of mouth and who you know. There are no financial classes to teach you how to handle your finances and medical bills now as a newly disabled person. That would help a new SCI maintain a good credit score so they can get accessible housing and vehicle that we need. Speaking of houses, every disabled or accessible housing you see on YouTube isn’t a person of color. Why is that? Why can’t a black disabled person be able to afford accessible housing and live comfortably?

Representation and inclusivity matter. To be able to look up and see someone like me is everything and it gives me hope. To see that being black and disabled isn’t a sin but something that is celebrated for its beauty like a diamond in the rough. What Is it like being black with a disability you ask? My friend Wesley Hamilton is a paraplegic due to gun violence as myself and this is his take on being an African American with a SCI. “Having a spinal cord injury can be complicated. The societal view of disability is a person in a wheelchair so if your spinal cord injury causes you to be in a wheelchair then you face a lot of discrimination. But add that you are black, and now is an even bigger problem. You see from my 11 years being in a wheelchair of realized one thing and that is other communities are a lot more empathetic than the black community. Being a black individual, having a spinal cord injury, most likely, depending on circumstances the black community is all you know, but the black community doesn’t accept a person with a spinal cord injury because they’re still fighting to find acceptance within themselves.

With that being said living life being black and having a spinal cord injury puts you in a position to not only deal with the social issues of being black hit also the issues people with disabilities deal with as well...

So, from extreme poverty to lack of resources it's hard. Most times hard to live knowing all odds are against you. Frankly, it's rough and you must be touched by God to make it out because there have been systems designed to defeat you and keep you there.” So now that you’ve read about two African American’s that so happen to have an SCI and gun violence survivors that beat adversity, how can you be a part of the solution and not the problem?

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