My name is Kylie Moore. I am a 33-year-old woman who has cerebral palsy. For the last eight years, I’ve worked at Bobby Dodd Institute (BDI) as a Special Projects Coordinator. In honor of March being Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, I’d like to share my story and journey to becoming an advocate with you!
My advocacy journey began my senior year of high school when I started working with the local Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (VRA). My goal, from a very early age, was always to go to college. Throughout high school, I took college prep classes to help me get closer to achieving this goal. But after meeting my then VRA counselor, I was sadly informed that in spite of the preparatory courses I’d taken, it was not recommended that I attend college and instead opt to immediately enter the workforce or attend a vocational training school. From that moment, I knew that I had to take a stand for myself – no matter what it took.
From advocating for a college experience to advocating for more time on my SAT/ACT testing, I decided to make advocating for myself a priority. And to my surprise, it gave me a fresh sense of independence. This continued as I started my college experience.
I attended Reinhardt University and received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. College was different from high school in terms of asking for accommodations. In high school, teachers make sure their students get what they need. In college, the student is responsible for making their requests known. I had to ask for things like getting copies of other students’ notes, extra time on tests and permission to record lectures. But, I pressed on.
I’d always been interested in psychology, believing that a major in the discipline would allow me the space and opportunity to help my peers in many ways but never knew explicitly what I’d do career-wise. By my junior year, I began to have a better understanding of what I wanted to do for a career. That summer, I volunteered at EnAble Georgia’s camp for young adults with developmental disabilities, and I really enjoyed it. I was very nervous to talk to people that I didn’t know at first, but I decided to take a chance on myself. I’m glad I did. I worked as an intern with EnAble for three months. It was there that I truly realized how powerful advocacy was. When the students learned about their rights and how to stand up for themselves, they gained more confidence which was inspiring to watch.
When I graduated college, I was not sure what my career path would be. I knew I was interested in disability advocacy but was not sure if it would turn into a career. A friend told me to apply for All About Developmental Disabilities’ Partners in Policymaking, an advocacy training for parents and self-advocates. I was accepted, and it was a life-changing experience. It was amazing to be in a room with like-minded individuals, each passionate about improving the lives of people with disabilities. Partners taught me what different organizations in the disability community did and how to talk to legislators and representatives. I was even able to establish relationships with policymakers like Senator John Albers, whom I still stay in contact with.
Once I graduated from Partners in Policymaking, I was hired by one of my fellow graduates for my first job. I was hired to be the Self-Advocacy teacher at Great Prospects, a nonprofit organization that serves young adults with developmental disabilities. Great Prospects was where I truly learned how to teach and connect with others with disabilities. My coworkers showed me how to create individualized lesson plans that fit the needs of each student. They also empowered me to use my disability story as an advantage, tailoring my teaching style to include my personal experiences.
It was also through a connection I made in Partners in Policymaking that I was recommended to participate in Georgia State University’s LEND Program. LEND, is an interdisciplinary training program for people who want to become trained professionals within the disability community. I was the appointed self-advocate in the cohort. The program was led by Mark Crenshaw, a disability advocate who also has cerebral palsy. Mark taught me that people with disabilities are the experts of their own lives and that they should be seen as leaders in the disability community. Seeing Mark have such a major impact on people’s lives made me realize that I could also influence others in a positive way. Participating in the LEND program affirmed for me that I truly wanted to pursue a career in the disability advocacy field.
After completing my fellowship, I was ready to further my career. I was hired by All About Developmental Disabilities (AADD) as the Special Projects Coordinator. One of my initial responsibilities was to develop a self-advocacy and leadership program for young adults with disabilities. I named the program the Ambassador Program, an 8-week training that teaches young adults how to describe their disabilities to others, how to improve self-esteem and how to get more involved in their communities. Once students complete the training, they attend speaking engagements at schools, churches, civic groups, and other places in the community. It’s truly amazing to see the impact that my students have on different audiences. Teaching the Ambassador program is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
When AADD merged with the Bobby Dodd Institute (BDI) in 2018, I continued to teach my advocacy classes. I also had the opportunity to represent BDI at the Source America Grassroots Advocacy Conference in 2019 where I advocated for inclusive employment opportunities for people with disabilities on Capitol Hill. In 2020, I received the Tom Miller Advocacy Award, a testament and reminder of how far I’ve come and an inspiration for what’s next in the world of advocacy for me. My career at BDI has been extremely rewarding, and I am forever grateful for the knowledge I have gained and the support I have received from everyone within the organization over the past eight years.
I hope my story of becoming a self-advocate inspires you to take charge of your own advocacy story! We each have a unique power that we’re born with, be empowered to use it!