Every day, United Way of Central Alabama and our network of more than 70 partner agencies and programs impact individuals throughout our community. This story comes from United Ability, an organization that provides innovative services connecting people with disabilities to their communities and empowering individuals to live full and meaningful lives.
Originally shared by United Ability
Belinda is one of the most courageous, determined, and brilliant women you will ever meet. She also happens to have cerebral palsy, but she has never let that stop her from achieving her dreams.
In addition to being in a wheelchair, Belinda is unable to speak in a manner that is easily understood by others. However, Belinda has a LOT to say.
When Belinda was in high school, she began using a communication device to speak to others. Because Belinda does not have consistent control of her hand movements, she improvised, and used her nose to select the words on her device.
In her twenties, Belinda came to United Ability, then known as United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham. It was here that our Speech-Language Pathologists taught her a more efficient to use her device.
Instead of using her nose, Belinda began to use a foot-switch in order to control her communication device. The transition from using her nose to using the foot-switch was a complex process, but Belinda worked hard and soon mastered the skill.
Belinda began putting her new-found skill to good use by talking to all she came into contact with and making new friends. The new skills also opened the door for meaningful employment and she has worked as a greeter at BELK for 12 years, where she welcomes customers and guides them to the various departments.
Belinda has not allowed her disabilities to prevent her from getting what she wanted. She has always advocated for herself and is a very strong woman. When the staff in our LINCPoint Adult Day Program suggested she enter the Ms. Wheelchair Alabama, Belinda jumped at the chance!
Ms. Wheelchair Alabama is an organization whose mission is to provide an opportunity to women in wheelchairs to inspire individuals with all types of disabilities. It is not a beauty pageant, but a platform for women to advocate for their particular passions.
Belinda is passionate that people with disabilities should be able to marry, live in their own home, and have all the rights and responsibilities that every other married couple has. Spreading this message is the main reason Belinda wanted to become Ms. Wheelchair Alabama.
Along Came Daniel
Five years ago Belinda met and fell in love with Daniel at United Ability. He asked her to marry him and she said, “yes.” Like any married couple, Daniel and Belinda wanted to start a life together. During their engagement, a group home agency began the process of trying to find an apartment where they could live together.
They were married in October of 2015, but as the years went by it seemed that each time a promising home was found, something fell through. Many people would have become discouraged and given up, but Belinda and Daniel continued pursuing their dream of sharing a home. “I have a husband, Daniel, who I love with my whole heart. I want everyone to know that people with disabilities feel love just as much as anyone else.”
They contacted the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program who connected them with a lawyer. Together with their lawyer, they were able to find an apartment and moved in 2018. As Belinda said, “It was the very best day of my life, except for our wedding!”
“Every person that has a disability should be an advocate for what they believe. They should also find people to advocate for them and help fight alongside them. Because I truly believe that everyone has the right to live the life they dream of.”