Daman Wandke is an accessibility analyst and disability advocate in the Washington, DC area.
My name is Daman Wandke and I work as a User Interface Analyst at SSB BART Group, an information technology (IT) accessibility consulting company. In this role, I provide consulting to large corporations on how to make their IT accessible. I am also a national disability advocate, currently serving as a Board Member of PolicyWorks, where we advocate to improve public policy that would increase employment access for people with disabilities. Previously, I served as the Student Advisory Council Chair of the US Business Leadership Network. My advocacy efforts focus on accessible information technology and increasing disability employment. I earned my Master of Business Administration in an accelerated one-year program. My resume includes accessibility work at many federal agencies: NOAA, USDA, NASA and FHFA. Oh…and I happen to have Cerebral Palsy (CP).
Having CP taught me how to accomplish tasks differently. I use an electric scooter and forearm crutches for mobility. I lack in the fine motor department, so I need help with some tasks. My speech is moderately affected by CP, so sometimes I have to get creative in verbal communication if people do not know me well. Having a disability has taught me a lot in life that has contributed to my successes. I am a good problem solver and creative. What do you do when you can’t use keys? Install a keyless entry lock on your apartment’s door that works with a remote, just like a car. My disability also taught me about management and teamwork. I have been hiring and managing personal care attendants since I entered college.
I recently saw a sweatshirt advertised on Facebook page dedicated to CP awareness that said: “Someone I know needs a cure.” I found that sentiment to be somewhat offensive. I am a successful 25 year old that would not be where I am today without CP. My disability is my “normal.” Where would I be today without CP? I wouldn’t be consulting with large companies on how they can improve their IT accessibility.I wouldn’t be advocating side-by-side with national leaders for the disability community. Yes, my body works differently but it’s not broken, nor sick, nor does it need to be cured.
Instead of a cure, let’s advocate for equality. Not only do I not want a cure, I do not want to be “baby talked” because my speech sounds a little different. I do not want to be turned away from an event because the only entrance has stairs. I do not want to have to pick between working full-time and having access to the personal care attendants. Cerebral Palsy doesn’t worsen over one’s lifetime like a disease. Let’s focus on creating a society of equal opportunity for all people with disabilities, including people with Cerebral Palsy, rather than searching for some kind of “cure.”