Keith: Welcome to Disability Empowerment Now, Season 2. I'm your host, Keith Murfee-DeConcini. Today, I'm talking to LeAnna Lucero, who is a recreational therapist. LeAnna, welcome to the show.
LeAnna: Yeah, thanks for having me, Keith. Happy to be here.
Keith: So we have a long professional history together. We first met when we were in the Arizona LEND program in 2017 I believe. And we actually co taught a class on Cerebral Palsy which we both have, which we will discuss later on and we have kept in touch over the years. Am I leaving anything out?
LeAnna: No, I think you've got it down. It’s hard to believe it's been that long.
Keith: Yes indeed, time flies. So for the listener, tell us about yourself and what got you into being a recreational therapist.
LeAnna: Yeah, so for those that don't know recreational therapy, it's a little bit like a combination of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling, but I like to say we revolve it around things that people really care about. So whatever their leisure interests are. And so I work with people with all different types of disabilities, physical, cognitive, the whole gamut. And I figure out how I can either get them to participate in new forms of leisure to kind of enhance their quality of life and meet their, you know, physical and mental goals, or if they have a new illness or injury, I figure out how I can adapt things that they already like to do so that they can be successful in that.
I got started doing that a little bit from my own personal history of living with Cerebral Palsy and as you know, Keith, having to adapt anything and everything you do just day to day compared to people who don't have any sort of physical disability like you and I do, and so that was really kind of my main motivating factor and I knew I wanted to work in healthcare.
So it was just kind of a good combination of the two things that I really love the most.
Keith: So we also met up in my home city of New York, New York. Tell me about your connection to Manhattan.
LeAnna: Yeah, I go out to New York quite a bit. Well, I haven't been since Covid, I should say. I wanted to go earlier this year and I never made it out that way, but, I have a really good group of friends and support that I met here in California, and then since sort of moved over that direction and similar to you they've just been a really good support for me in terms of people who are really familiar with some of the challenges that come with disability. So as I've kind of moved throughout the years similar to you, I've kept in touch with them.
And that's kind of my annual, keep in touch trip, so to speak.
Keith: So, tell me about your family or tell us about your family and their impact on your area of study and what you hope to be long term professionally, because I know there's a great story in there.
LeAnna: Yeah, my family background plays a big role in my life, both, you know, past and present. I am very fortunate to grow up with the best parents who became my greatest advocates from before I was born until now. I have a twin sister, her name is Megan, and they were also her biggest advocates as well as just our support system between my sister and myself. We were born three months premature, a little over 30 years ago.
And so, you know, technology and medicine wasn't then, what it is now. So we kind of split the difference in terms of the challenges that we deal with in terms of myself having Cerebral Palsy, being on the more physical side of the spectrum of disabilities, and then my sister more on the cognitive side with, you know, more learning difficulties and challenges and memory.
So we compliment each other in that way in terms of our abilities and what our, you know, areas of difficulty and also admiration are for each other. So from really early on we learned, you know, the importance of advocacy, the importance of finding your place within the disability community and building your own support system so that you can deal with the inevitable challenges that I would argue anyone with disability or chronic illness faces at some point in time. Whether that's, you know, from a social standpoint or a professional standpoint. Just really a key skill that you have to learn to navigate and really embrace, even though that can be quite challenging. So we were fortunate enough to learn that from our parents, whether that was myself, you know, from a really young age, figuring out how I was gonna navigate the world going from, you know, physical bracing to surgeries and navigating school and workplace and friends.
And so I was really lucky to have that support system, just to really get me to where I am. Professionally my end goal is to go to medical school and become a physician assistant, which I started doing and really ran into some roadblocks that I didn't expect within the field of medicine itself, which I think is really telling and really eye-opening not only for, you know, people within our disability community, but also just people practicing in healthcare or medicine or interacting with people with disabilities.
Keith: Sorry to interrupt. I'm not surprised that you ran into challenges and roadblocks. I'll get back to that in a second. So I was actually born three months premature too, weighing at two pounds,11 ounces. Would you feel comfortable sharing your birth weight?
LeAnna: Yeah, absolutely. You edged us out by a little bit. I think I was 2.5 and my sister was two pounds, six ounces. So I'm just a little shy of where you were at, but very similar in terms of our stories certainly.
Keith: Yes, indeed. In fact, when we were in Arizona LEND, I was approached by my advisor, at the time, Dr. Eileen McGrath, to originally teach the entirety of the class on Cerebral Palsy and I, as you well know, I, and as anyone listening to this podcast knows very well that I am a chatterbox, that hasn’t changed. But I wanted to get the female perspective of Cerbral PAsly and particularly of the physical side of the disability because I could not speak to that experience at all. And so what ended up happening, and I don't want any credit for that, but what ended up happening is that you, me and your sister all co-taught the three hour course on Cerebral Palsy together splitting it in half. And that still remains the highlight of my Arizona LEND experience. Do you still come back to teach or co-teach the Cerebral Palsy class?
LeAnna: Yeah. The last, gosh, several years since you and I presented, I did present up until this year. I'm unsure if I am teaching that or not. But the last, I guess five years or so, I did co-teach that class. They kind of split it into Cerebral Palsy and a mix of other things now, but I do have a little segment in there still.
Keith: Well, I'm glad of that. Does your sister ever join you to co-teach your segment or was that a one off?
LeAnna: No, she still joins me. I think I have her pretty roped into our, yours and my philosophy on kind of disability advocacy and the importance of our role in doing that, and she's come to really enjoy it as well.
Keith: Yeah, and this should come as no surprise, certainly to you, but I particularly enjoyed watching the comradery between you and your sister and how you would bounce off of eachother. Not literally, but you two seem very in sync. It didn’t seem like it was fake or robotic or anything like that. You two seem to have a really great bond and that was very refreshing to watch. I am glad I went second because I just got to marvel at my co-teachers. And I met your family, at least your mother, was your dad there I can’t remember?
LeAnna: I think he didn't come that time. So I think, yeah, it was just my mom.
Keith: How is your sister doing?
LeAnna: She's good. She is working as a school social worker for elementary and middle school students. So she is also dabbling in the realm of disability and helping kiddos get diagnosed with, you know, different challenges that they face in school, whether that's, you know, behavioral or ADHD and helping them be more successful in their schooling.
And so she really takes pride in that too and it's nice that she's found her niche there as well.
Keith: Yes, indeed. So, why don't we get back to talking about some of the roadblocks and setbacks you experienced or encountered in furthering your education that you were talking about a few minutes ago?
LeAnna: Yeah. So I started attending med school and I've never really had too much accommodation wise in terms of regular schooling. I got my, you know, bachelor's degree first. I have a master's degree in recreational therapy and then went to medical school. And so when I started that journey, I really didn't anticipate things being too much different than what I had before.
Of course, with Cerebral Palsy, you run into issues with just, you know, general fatigue for myself, spasticity, whether that's, you know, your day-to-day challenge of like one day is you're feeling more fatigued and and tired than your normal baseline or, you know, maybe you have more pain. I anticipated that. But what I didn't anticipate was having to modify as much of my work professionally and then also from an advocacy standpoint, for myself as a provider caring for other people. So what I mean by that is in medical school we had a lot of timed typing exams and I can type just fine on the computer.
I've been in healthcare for a long time, writing notes and things like that, and it was just never like a time pressurized environment. And then when I got to medical school, it was part of our exams, treating patients note writing, and you had a set amount of time to do it was really difficult for me. And so recognizing, okay, now I need academic accommodations for technology, right? How am I gonna do this? Is that gonna be extended time? You know, things like that and when I approached the faculty about it I was pretty much told, well, we haven't had a lot of experience with people with physical disabilities.
We don't know what this is gonna mean for you or what it's going to look like, which was discouraging for me to feel singled out already amongst my class. But then also to be told, basically our program hasn't dealt with this before was also a little bit disheartening and just some added uncertainty.
I did end up getting accommodations and that part wasn't a problem. But then later when we started doing things like physical exams, I had to, let's say, modify delivery methods, like when you're studying musculoskeletal exams and you're trying to model a particular position or a task that you want a patient to do. And I would be physically unable to model that task for my patient. So I would have to take longer to verbally describe it to them, and so again, it became a time constraint in a field where time is part of your grade. Time is part of how you get paid, and time is part of how you function and how understanding people would or wouldn't be in terms of that.
And it was kind of like every time I was studying a new system or a new task, it was an added thing for me that I had to worry about. And it was interesting to see that all of my professors who were also, you know, advanced care providers, practicing medicine, really didn't have any experience with this or any ideas of how I could combat it.
It was pretty much meeting with me, whatever it kind of came up with on the fly, debating about if this was something they could allow or not and if that would even be a reasonable solution. And so the whole process was kind of really trial and error, which I feel like is so much of our disability community. You kind of end up, a guinea pig in that way, which is really sad because it isn't that you don't have the ability to conduct a certain job or task. It's solely based on the fact that you have to modify it and do it a different way. And is that going to be granted respect and validated as something that is permissible in the eyes of other people?
Keith: So another highlight for my Arizona LEND experience was shadowing and doing clinic hours at the Children's Clinic. I absolutely adore that place, and last season I was very fortunate to interview the current CEO Jared Perkins. Tell me, did the fact that you were born with a disability, and your sister was born with a disability, influence or didn't influence what you wanted to make your professional life be?
LeAnna: Yeah, definitely. I think it played a role for both my sister and I. Myself in terms of, I've had the experience many times over, which I know, you have as well of you see a provider and you hope that they understand you and come from a place of empathy when you're struggling with an issue that's related to your disability.
You know, perhaps it's something that wouldn't apply to people who aren't you know, in the disability community dealing with the same struggle. And I really wanted to be in a space where I could bridge that gap for people, which is what I love doing as a recreational therapist. I have a unique ability to connect with people in a different way because I have the lived experience of navigating the health system, of dealing with, you know, different roadblocks and challenges and overcoming. Things that maybe should be a non-issue, but in your and my reality, still very much is, and so I think, you know, the field of, of medicine and healthcare and what my sister does in social work really benefits from people like myself and you and her in terms of being able to provide that insight to the people that we are working and interacting with. But also to show people what is possible.
Keith: So you mentioned that you were able to, I will use your words, rope your sister into our version of disability advocacy. Of course, I know what you're talking about, but for the listener, tell us more about that and what was your sister's reaction at least initially?
LeAnna: Yeah, my sister had never done any sort of speaking. We've talked, you and I have talked kind of at length about disclosure and how much to disclose to, you know, people in different settings and different places. I feel like her initial concern was, am I ready to be vulnerable to people that I don't know? And I think for so many of us, in the disability community, that's such a huge part of day to day, and just even your basic relationships much less, you know, more complicated ones. So I think that was her fear initially. But then after realizing the value that simply just conversing with others can have, and doing things like your podcast that you have and outreach that you do. The more people you connect with, you know, the bigger impact you can have, the more awareness is given to what we face.
And hopefully, you know, that leads to more people brainstorming solutions. And I feel like that's a big goal for everyone in the disability community is to have our voices heard and what can we do about these gaps that exist.
Keith: So what made you want to eventually become a physician assistant and not a physician yourself?
LeAnna: That's a good question. I get asked that a lot. Why don't I just go the traditional route? I'll be honest, part of it is, is time, right? PA's school is shorter and in physician assistant school you get trained as a generalist. So I have a lot more flexibility to practice in different areas. You can do like family medicine or you can also switch and do orthopedics or pediatrics, and you don't have to undergo additional specialty training like you would for just a traditional physician where you have to do more fellowships and you know, additional residencies on top of your schooling.
You have the option for some of those things as a PA but you're not boxed into staying in one thing and so I liked that idea of, I could do pediatrics for a while or I could switch to genetics and I could talk to so many more different circles going that avenue than if I went to traditional med school. You know, me, I'm so flexible in what I do and kind of where my mind's at for different things. I like variety.
Keith: Oh, before I forget, I interviewed Tina from the program, from Arizona LEND early on in the season and she said hi.
LeAnna: Oh yeah. I'll have to message her and say, hey, I haven't talked to her in a while, but I would love to reconnect and know what she's up to. I'm glad you were able to get a hold of her.
Keith: So are there any people or staff members that you stay in contact with from Arizona LEND and why?
LeAnna: Yeah. I talked to Dr. Rice who was one of the other co-directors of Arizona LEND along with Dr. McGrath that you mentioned earlier.
Keith: I think, hold on. I think, but again, be sure, I think Dr.McGrath retired and Sydney Rice is the director now but I may not be remembering that correctly. Continue.
LeAnna: Yeah and I bounce ideas off Dr. Rice just professionally in terms of, you know, different things I've encountered from a providers standpoint or wanting more insight about how to navigate things within medicine.
I think it's so important to have people who understand that. And the other kind of challenge of navigating this for me, not only from the disability side of things, but I also don't have family in healthcare, so, or friends that work in healthcare in this kind of advanced capacity and Dr.Rice really bridges that gap of her, you know, passion and experience working, with people with disabilities, but also her medical knowledge. From our class when we were in LEND I would say aside from yourself that I regularly talk to is, Zeamara. She was a school psychologist. So I still connect with her, and I think for both of us, it's again, kind of our passion for working with children. We've done a lot of work in pediatrics over my career and she is at an elementary school, so we both really relate to that. As well as just a good camaraderie that we have with each other, similar to you and I.
Keith: Next time you talk to her, please tell her I'd said hi, and maybe even encourage her to come on the podcast. It would be really great to reconnect, I haven’t talked to her in years.
So we both unfortunately got very bad cases of Covid, 19 last year and I wanted to touch on that and what led us to have similar experiences with a very dangerous upper respiratory virus like Covid. My doctor at the time, who will remain nameless, took one look at me and thought, he's young enough. He'll sleep it off in like a week. He doesn't need a paxlovid and I wish he turned out to be right. I really do because it would've saved me four or five months of intense suffering. I had a very early date of covid, actually right before the pandemic. I got double teamed in New York by both pneumonia and bronchitis at the same time. The only time, hopefully, that I ever get double teamed by two different viruses and he knew that going into our professional relationship, and I saw him for almost two years.
He's a very nice man, but he made this one awful call. One awful decision and it thankfully didn't cause me my life but as you know, the body doesn't know what's going on and it kicks into overdrive trying to heal itself and then you add in a chronic physical disability like Cerebral Palsy and it's just waiting through an emotional ocean of hell. That's the only word that came to mind. And so I never got treatment and I was basically quarantined into my house with my dog Pepper who couldn’t luckily couldn't catch covid from her dad. Tell us about your experience with Covid-19.
LeAnna: Yeah. Covid with a disability is a whole different game for sure. When I was in graduate school, I had avoided Covid amazingly through the first two years of Covid while working in an emergency department with Covid patients. So I would like to start there that all the precautions are necessary to mask when you need to and around other people and take precautions for yourself, especially if you know you have other things going on, like you and I wish I could drill into other people the importance of protecting others. Because man, when I got it, it was worse than I thought it could be. I got Covid from a classmate at school. We didn't have precautions in place. Really, no one was, you know, masking and during our coursework and things like that and it was of course after a holiday, and so Covid kind of spread rampant.
And I was one of, I think seven people that ended up with Covid. And in that situation over the summer, I knew I was exposed to Covid, so it was kind of on the alert, maybe a little frightened about how my body was feeling, just so kind of for all the reasons you mentioned, I could try to combat it as early as possible if I could catch myself getting Covid, likely knowing that it was gonna be worse for me than probably other people. So I did end up getting Covid. My heart rate really went through the roof. I experienced a lot of spasticity and muscle pain, which is a symptom of Covid, but for me, that was like my normal spasticity, you know, that I take Baclofen and other things for, to manage just day to day. But like on steroids, nothing was touching it. It hurt to sit up.
Keith: Baclofen is a wonderful drug for spasticity. Sorry to interrupt. I am on that as well. Shout out to the makers of Baclofen who are not yet a sponsor for this podcast but LeAnna, please continue.
LeAnna: Maybe we'll have to shoot them a message, but yeah, so it was just crazy, it really messed with my heart rate. My heart rate was through the roof, and I ended up, you know, in the emergency department where similarly to your experience, I wasn't initially taken seriously. They were just kind of like, oh, well you're a young person, you know, you have Covid, and kind of brushed me off until I told them my heart rate was so high. And after about 20 minutes, by the time they took my vitals, I realized that it was more serious than they thought. And my vital signs were pretty off of what normal would be. I was fortunate enough in the emergency department to get paxlovid unlike yourself.
So I was very grateful for that. And also, a myriad of other tests because they were also worried about respiratory infections for me, which I didn't have a lot of signs of at the time, but for me, it really just tanked, anything with my pre-existing condition of Cerebral Palsy. It felt like Covid just went to that place and drilled it.
So in terms of me getting back to my baseline, just physically similar to you was about three, four months before I really felt like I could function and like to get through the day sitting up and doing what I needed to do, even just walking around. Even now it's been like five, six months almost, and I still don't really exercise cause my heart rate is really high aside from walking. And so it's getting better, but it's definitely taking a really long time.
Keith: Yeah. I’ve readjusted to walking long distances because let's be honest. Pepper demands it. That dog got me back in shape real quick.
LeAnna: Hey. She's worth it though.
Keith: Yes. Yes, she very much is. How I got it was, my girlfriend at the time, got tested for her job. And the test was negative and it turned out to be a false negative, and I had to reassure her constantly that, no, you did not mean to give me Covid. You did not know, you did not medically screw me over. If anything the false negative test misleads our families into a false sense of security and so yeah, but how are you doing right now with any long Covid effects? I got what is considered a neurogenic cough and I am addicted to Halls extra strength cough drops and you know me, I love my tea. So, I drink that religiously and Palm Wonderful with diatonic water. So that's how I cope. How about you?
LeAnna: Hey, you and I are both tea people, so I'm right there with you. I love a good tea, so I'm about that too, but yeah, like I said, the biggest thing for me still, I feel like for the most part, I am really close to my baseline, aside from, I definitely still get fatigued faster, in terms of walking or exercising, and then yeah, still just being monitored, like cardio wise be, just because my heart rate can get up pretty high, pretty quickly. I've never really been able to notice when that happened even before Covid.
So it's just a little bit scarier knowing that it's trending a little bit higher when you factor that in too. So I'm hoping it'll continue to get better. It slowly has, but it's definitely not where it needs to be.
Keith: See, it's very difficult for me to nail down the long term Covid effects, particularly regarding chronic fatigue because as you well know, chronic fatigue, is really baked into our operating system, or pre-programmed into our nervous system and that unfortunately is the most prevalent effect of long term Covid effects that people think of. I want to go back to why you think neither of us were taken seriously? Is it just because we look young, we are both white and we look healthy on the outside or is it something deeper than that? I mean my doctor at the time claimed that there was a shortage in Arizona, and he was right. But he claimed that he couldn't give me any Paxlovid to a guy who had done everything right, who had gotten vaccinated up the wazoo because he had people who were unvaccinated, dying in hospital. And of course I feel horrible for those people, but I mean, what really aggravated me and why I left the practice of this doctor is he knew all of my medical history, not by heart, because he had dozens of other patients, but he knew he was well versed in my medical history and he, just in that moment, didn't care. I'm sure he didn't mean to give off that medical vibe, but his lack of empathy was appalling.
I mean, I still admire the guy. He's a great doctor, he's very charming. He's a great storyteller. But he just made one critical error that thankfully didn’t cost me my life. So he looked at me and assumed that everything would be okay, because seeing is apparently always accurate, and I looked healthy and so just sleep it off, hydrate, sleep it off, hydrate, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. And until this day I really wish he was right, but he couldn’t have been more wrong, and I ended up giving Covid to my parents and luckily both of them got treatment. So in hindsight, if it's between me getting treatment and them getting treatment, I'm so glad they were the ones who got treatment. But back to my question after my long winded storytelling, why do you think we weren’t taken seriously by the medical profession?
LeAnna: Yeah. I definitely think some of it has to do with us not falling in the traditional demographic of Covid of like being elderly or having something really obvious, even though in a lot of ways CB is obvious, but, I think it's definitely not, at least from my experience, like working with people with disabilities is, it doesn’t qualifies them in terms of actually interact and working with people with disabilities and really knowing the nuances of how to provide care for people like you and myself is definitely not something that is taught. Even when I met with a lot of my professors, they were just like, man, I can really sympathize with, you know, the fact that you're having muscle pain. Like I had muscle pain and trouble getting in and out of the car and they were talking about, you know, how fatigued they were. And I kind of just wanted to yell from the rooftop like, that's my daily, imagine how it really is. And I think it's so hard for other people to wrap their mind around when your baseline is so different.
And it's, like I said, it's just not taught, and so unless you find someone with the experience of regularly treating people with multiple health conditions or something like that, I tend to find, you get ignored a lot and, and luckily like I'm a really good advocate for myself and so are you. But it really makes me wonder about people that aren't as strong in that area and what happens to them within the system of healthcare. And I also think, you know, could there be nuances to that, like shortages and what have you. Sure. But then I think it also warrants within the field in general, just looking at how we handle resources.
Like where do you on this continuum of people, place people with disability then, and I know that's like a topic of contention for so many people in terms of how you provide treatment and what and how much. And there's so much stigma attached to you know, health conditions that I think that's part of it too is, maybe providers feel like, well, I don't wanna overtreat, but I feel like there has to be some way to reach a happy medium to where we can feel functional and have our needs be met and be validated. So I think some of its training, some of its societal and not so much for us, but definitely for other people of where do you find your self advocacy?
And thankfully when we weren't taken seriously, you and I can kind of take matters into our own hands and be like, hey, this is still a problem, but it's, yeah, it's tough because we shouldn't have to do that.
Keith: So in having your disability, in your personal life as well as your professional life, do you find that people are understanding, accepting, empathetic in terms of friends, dates, et cetera? Is it for lack of a better term, still a crapshoot.
LeAnna: I'll be honest. For me, I don't always disclose to people in certain situations because that is something that I worry about, even if it's not something to where I worry about their reaction, I kind of immediately jump to the future of how is this gonna change my interactions from that point forward? Because even if people have a supportive response to you disclosing anything about your disability, even if it's just as simple as diagnosis or you needing to modifying a task or bailing on some plans because you're having a really bad day or what have you, I think there's a lot of nuances to that.
And so I worry about that long term, and then if I'm confiding, you know, certain information, how many people do I want to really know that information? And so for me, I feel like socially with my friends, I've never really had a bad response there, but in terms of other people, especially if it's like with people I don't know as well, if I have to do something that modifies plans because I can't, you know, participate in like, I don't know, some form of recreation or something, I've definitely had people become upset because they wanted to do something as a group and I couldn't do it. And the group's like, okay, do we leave you and bow out or do we change what we're doing? And that makes me feel really awful too.
So I think it's a little bit nuanced in that way, I feel like it's worse, at least to me, when I've had random people say things to me kind of unprompted that are like, “oh, what happened to you? Or what did you do?” And I'm sure you've had that experience too. And that's definitely worse. I would rather have people genuinely ask me questions if they're curious versus be accusatory or make assumptions.
LeAnna: And that definitely happens just more randomly in public, and as far as employment goes, it's been a mixed bag. And same with school. Like when I disclosed at graduate school and tried to get accommodations, I of course didn't have to close, but I disclosed. But I felt like at the same time I did because I needed them to better understand where I was coming from because as they said, they hadn't dealt with this before, which is wild. I had professors say to me, “well, why don't you just tell everyone?” And so we had, you know, this conversation about why you don't just disclose your whole life story to people, even though you're supposed to have, you know, certain protections.
And we had this conversation about how they had never really thought about that, about disclosure or what disclosure does or doesn't do for you. And I think that conversation is definitely something that needs to be bigger than it is right now. And so I also struggle with that. Yeah. In a lot of settings, what is the impact of my disclosure? I'm sure you've had that too.
Keith: Yes. I absolutely hate how people assume that I'm drunk high or on drugs and me being half Irish does not help matters in any sense of the word.For perhaps the greatest topic change in the history of this podcast, I mentioned earlier my favorite part of Arizona LEND. What were some of your favorite parts of Arizona LEND?
LeAnna: Yeah. For sure the people that I got to meet, which you obviously, Dr. Rice, the different communities that we got to interact with and opportunities that we were provided were just really valuable. Like you said, I love the Children's Clinic also, and when we went down to Nogales and, you know, got to see, you know, outreach that was there and when we went up to the Hopi reservation, I really enjoyed that, and just getting to be exposed to, you know, different people and cultures and I love the insight that people can provide. It's definitely what fuels me, like personally is just learning about others and so I found that to be invaluable to have access to.
Keith: So if there are any aspiring advocates who just got out of school or training and want to make self-advocacy in advocating for others their professional calling like we are doing. What would be a few action tips you would give them? Like three to five.
LeAnna: Yeah. That's a good question. I think the biggest thing is, first off, you have to find your voice. You need to be really comfortable with your story so that you can advocate or if you are not, within the disability community yourself, like you and I, but maybe you have a friend or a loved one that is, and that's your passion for advocacy, know your reasons why. I think knowing your personal story is what's really going to fuel your motivation, because it can be tough at times and also that's what's gonna capture people and intrigue them to learn more.
And once you can hook people, then you can really take things and run with it from there. I think much like anything else, find your mentor of other people that are advocates. Feel free to reach out to people, even if it's just a simple email and you may not get responses at first, but try to build your broad network. I think that's been one of the biggest things for me, as people I've interacted with in one capacity and then later it's become so much more. And so I would say do your best to get connected, whether that's email, a social media message. I know myself and you are both open to that. People contacting us or messaging us and, you know, different capacities.
And then similar to you and I just getting involved in your local community, whether that's volunteering in a space you want to be, but maybe haven't entered yet, or just another space to get connections. And the reason for that is more people will get to know you and know your story, and that's the biggest way advocacy starts.
And from there you'll find your niche in what form of advocacy you feel most comfortable with and you know what avenue you wanna go. Whether that's the more political side of things, grassroots side of things. I feel like you and I do a little bit of both, so people have different comfort levels with that.
Keith: So I like to think and I hope that both people with disabilities and people who have yet to discover their own disabilities listen to this podcast. And I wouldn't assume that each group would take away the same things from an episode. So as my guest, what do you hope that people and advocates with disabilities have learned or taken away from this episode? And what do you hope that people who have yet to discover their own disabilities take away and learn from this episode?
LeAnna: Yeah, that's a great question. I feel like I hope that people within the disability community find a sense of comfort and community in your podcast, in this podcast, in that even though you may have different challenges or roadblocks or experiences, there's a sense of commonality there because it can feel very isolating in the moment when you know you're in the minority. And so creating our own majority within our minority community is super important. I hope that people within the disability community will be encouraged to tell their story or learn from my story or yours, how to adapt that to best suit their needs, even if that's, you know, doing things the same or different than we did.
Just providing perspective I think is so valuable and I hope that they realize the value and power that they have of their story, even if they don't pursue that formally, that they feel the impact that you make on other people.
And in terms of people you know who aren't within the disability community themselves, I hope that they come away with a perspective of, you know, maybe viewing things from a different lens that they didn't think about, or a gap that they can help close in their given profession or world that they're in, because something like this podcast has given them something new to think about and to consider in their world that could be done differently or better or, you know, more accommodating.
I hope that they also feel empowered to learn and explore more and even if that's, you know, disability in general by taking courses or talking to people that they know or becoming involved in a community agency by, you know, being inspired. I think that is also valuable because the more voices and allies that, you know, the disability community can have the better.
Keith: LeAnna, I want to thank you so much for coming on this podcast and for being as authentic as I've always known you to be. I hope you'll come back again and update us on your life both personally and professionally, and share more about your advocacy. And please give my regards to your family, even though I only met them once or twice I believe, I've always looked up to them. Family is incredibly important, regardless of what job or type of advocacy you do and I can certainly see their imprint on you both personally and professionally. Thank you once again for coming on this podcast and I hope to hear from you soon and next time we see each other in person share a cup of tea. Have a great night, my friend.
LeAnna: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me, Keith. I'd be happy to come by anytime.
Keith: You have been listening to Disability Empowerment Now. I would like to thank my guest, You, our listener and the Disability Empowerment Team that made this episode possible. More information about the podcast can be found at DisabilityEmpowermentNow.com or on social media @disabilityempowermentnow. The podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts or on the official website. Don’t forget to rate, comment, and share the podcast! This episode of Disability Empowerment Now is copyrighted 2023.