Today is National Cerebral Palsy Day in the United States, as part of March being National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. (World Cerebral Palsy Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in October each year). I’ve gone over the basics of CP a fair amount so far in previous talks and our 2018 Community P4A video covers a lot of it too, but here’s some quick facts you might not be aware of:
Over 90% of people diagnosed with CP have an average or above average level of intelligence. If they do have learning difficulties or a below average level of intelligence, it is due to a comorbid disorder and is not because of CP alone. (And yes, that includes those in wheelchairs, those who don’t speak vocally or have speech difficulties, those who have vision issues, etc.)
Approximately two-thirds of people with CP can walk. Some walk unaided. Some walk with braces, or canes, or crutches. Some are ambulatory wheelchair users. Some are nearly full-time wheelchair users. Some use a combination of mobility aids or use different mobility aids at different points in their lives or depending on their pain levels.
CP is not degenerative. It’s a type of brain damage that occurs before, during, or just after birth (most commonly before birth), so it won’t get worse. However, as people with CP’s bodies age, their symptoms may become more prevalent/difficult to deal with, but that’s just how being a human works. You get older, so your body breaks down whether you have CP or not.
In honor of CP Day, here’s some AMAZING people with CP that prove you can still do cool stuff even if you’re disabled.
Jessy Yates (https://www.instagram.com/jessyyates/): MY ACTUAL QUEEN. She’s a white actor, model, burlesque dancer, and ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CPF). She’s currently the *FIRST PERSON EVER* with a physical disability to be enrolled at the Yale School of Drama. She makes a brief guest appearance in *Speechless* if you plan to watch that with me, and last year on her Instagram she documented every time the (very few) elevators on the NYC subway were closed without warning. (Spoiler alert: it was almost every day.)
Zach Anner (https://www.instagram.com/zach.anner/): He’s a white comedian, Youtuber, guest star and writer on *Speechless*, member of Nerdfighteria. He wrote a book, did a workout series on his YouTube that is 10/10 hilarious, is an ambassador for the CPF, and went viral with a video of him pointing out inaccessibility in NYC while just trying to get a rainbow bagel.
Maysoon Zayid: (https://www.instagram.com/maysoonzayid/): Self-described “triple threat of minorities – female, disabled, Muslim”. She’s a dancer, a proud Palestinian-American who spent her summers in Palestine, a CPF ambassador, co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, was listed in Time as “a top comic that’s changing what’s funny.” She also did an AMAZING and seriously hilarious TED talk about growing up disabled with fierce parents and not accepting no for an answer: <https://www.ted.com/talks/maysoon_zayid_i_got_99_problems_palsy_is_just_one?language=en>
Jerron Marcel (https://www.instagram.com/jerronmarcel/): He’s a Black dancer, the principal dancer and Developmental Director at Hiedi Latski dance, and is currently on the board of Trustees at Dance/USA, a consultant for the CPF, and one of the trainers on CPF’s adaptive fitness app Evolve21.
Sarah Kim (https://www.instagram.com/sarahskkim/): She’s an Asian-American writer and journalist, a recent graduate from Columbia Graduate School, and proud intersectional feminist. Her works have been featured in big-name publications like Huff Post, Teen Vogue, and The Daily Beast. Her most recent gig is freelancing for the inclusion and diversity section at Forbes.
Micah Fowler (https://www.instagram.com/micahdfowler/): The star of ABC’s *Speechless,* CPF Ambassador, movie enthusiast, and lover of all things Marvel/DC and Star Wars. His character JJ may not speak, but Micah does, and he’s an excellent example of a person with CP who has speech difficulties with absolutely zero effect on his intelligence.
Jason Benetti (https://twitter.com/jasonbenetti): He’s an American sportscaster and the play-by-play announcer for the Chicago White Sox since 2016. He’s also acted as a broadcaster on ESPN, Fox Sports, Westwood One, and Time Warner covering football, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, and basketball.
These and several more of my favorites are listed here: https://www.gogreen4cp.org/15-top-influencers
TW: mentions Jessy Yates’ burlesque name which includes a slang name for a vulva, she is listed #1 on the list; list includes Eva, a sex educator with a focus on queer and disabled sex and a consultant for Speechless. The photo attached for her is of a cartoon (that doesn’t show anything but implies) related to that, and her Instagram contains content related to her profession. She is #19 on the list if you want to avoid that.