Tomorrow is MN-CCD’s last Tuesday at the Capitol for the 2013 Legislative Session! To mark the end of a great session of advocacy, check out the following interview with all-star self-advocate Kjensmo Walker! Written by Stephanie Kolari, Program Manager, Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota.
Tuesday, May 14 will be the final MN-CCD’s “Tuesdays at the Capitol”. This week, we are recognizing self-advocates. This session proved to be full of triumph and frustration. Through it all, self-advocates showed up and demonstrated the strength and resilience of the disability community in Minnesota. To highlight an example of this, we are happy to introduce you to an amazing self-advocate, Kjensmo Walker. Kjensmo is involved in community outreach and engagement, connecting residents with work force resources. Kjensmo holds a Bachelor of Science in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota. She has volunteered with the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, various transit advocacy groups.
My name is Kjensmo Walker, and I am a person with a disability. I was a typical 21-year-old when I got diagnosed with epilepsy, and my life got turned upside down. I lost the ability to drive and was stuck in my house in the suburbs. I realized then that driving is a privilege afforded only to those of a certain age, ability, and class. Transportation should be a right for all people, and I began investigating how best to make this happen. I moved to the city and quickly became an advocate for real transportation solutions that work for everyone.
I’ve often said that having a disability is a full-time job. All the forms, phone calls, time spent in line at their offices and chasing down the proofs they require. I needed a lot of help to understand and complete all these requirements. It is difficult and stressful. For a long time, I just tried my best to do what the various agencies asked of me to stay in compliance with their demands. I thought that was all I could do.
In January 2012 my mentor at the Epilepsy Foundation, Stephanie Kolari, suggested I come to a Friday meeting of the MN-CCD at the Capitol. I didn’t know anyone, was overwhelmed by all the people, and I didn’t understand what they were talking about! But they were all so friendly and eager to talk with me about the issues. I learned that the CCD works to change, through advocacy, laws and legislation, the rights of people like me! I had no clue that the rules that constrict my life were changeable, and to see what a talented, smart, inclusive group the CCD was – how dedicated they are to making MY life better – I was blown away. They encouraged me to get involved, and a whole new world opened up for me.
After two legislative sessions with the CCD I still feel like a beginner. There is so much to learn, but the staff and friends of the CCD are friendly and helpful. I feel like I’m making a difference just by showing up. “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” No matter your ability, the CCD makes being an advocate easy and fun, all you have to do is show up!