Letter of Intent

Below is an explanation of why I, started Accessible Arizona and the direction I would like to see it go in.

I moved to Arizona in 2004, 6 months after my spinal cord injury that left me a quadriplegic. I dedicated myself to physical therapy for two years, but as the possibility of walking diminished I dedicated myself to my schooling. I realized the importance of investing in my mind after losing the use of my body, and that propelled me to get my Juris Doctor degree. I graduated from law school with the hopes of using my degree to advocate for not only myself, but also the other people in the community with severe mobility disabilities. For no other reason than the fact that I use a wheelchair I have been personally discriminated against, often in the form of non-compliance, stereotypes, and a lack of representation in legislation. I have to be honest, Arizona is behind with progressive legislation that seeks to implement universal design and educate the public on severe mobility disabilities.

The lack of progressive legislation led me to independently proposing legislation and organizing an event to address the misuse and abuse of disabled parking in Arizona. People with severe mobility disabilities struggle daily with disabled parking misuse and abuse, but nobody would take on the topic. Not ONE disability focused non-profit would touch the topic, despite being asked by multiple members of the community to do something. Why? Because “disability” encompasses a LARGE group and they don’t want to offend anyone “disabled” who may be negatively affected by enforcing the current law. Mind you, I use the term “disabled” very loosely. I was told that I was segregating the disabled community by only having wheelchair users and people with severe mobility disabilities at the Gimp Gathering, and at first I was offended. However, as I thought about it I realized I am segregating the community and that is my intent. Hear me out before being offended. It was about disabled parking which applies to people with severe mobility disabilities. The problem is the misconception that “all disabilities are created equal” and everyone’s needs are just as important as the next. That is the exact same mentality that led to an 83% increase in disabled permits issued over the last 15 years, when the overall population increased by only 25% and the actual disabled population decreased by a nominal rate. We are unwilling to tell someone they are not disabled, even when they really are not disabled. We can’t even ask what their disability is. The state has been forced to approve almost anyone with their “disabled” hand out, and now the programs are spread thin. We need to reserve the programs for those with the greatest need and in order to do so we must be able to tell people no.

I decided to form the Gimp Gathering to take care of the disabled parking issue, and I was blown away when it only took one visit to the state capital and a meeting with State Representative Darin Mitchell to have a bill regarding disabled parking proposed this upcoming term. It was at that moment I realized how easy it was to advocate and decided to not stop there. I have decided that now is the time for a new wave of advocacy, one where the community is directly involved and benefits. I’m not making a dime and my political affiliation won’t negatively affect potential progress.

We need to encourage those with severe mobility disabilities to not embrace the victim mentality that has sadly become the norm. Life hands you excuses, it’s whether or not you choose to use them. I do not support the mentality of living a life without purpose, progress, and pride. People with severe mobility disabilities need to have pride in themselves and that pride is directly related to one’s personal accomplishments. I hope to aid individuals in getting out of the victim mentality and start becoming owners of life by setting and reaching goals. It is our responsibility as individuals in a community to represent ourselves as positively as possible in order to change stereotypes, and that includes increasing our average level of education. I understand that the step towards education can be daunting, therefore I will be sure that Accessible Arizona offers mentorships for students to receive advice from professions.

Social events with a purpose are important to offer, because relationships bring joy and doing good things builds character. The goals will include acts of kindness that directly impact a fellow disabled individual in need. We should be helping those in need… It’s not about what we can get, it’s what we can give.

All relationships are important and that includes dating. That is another aspect I want Accessible Arizona to tackle, dating. A person’s happiness can be greatly impacted by their love life or lack thereof. I have addressed the topic in my online series I wrote for PushLiving, and I still feel it is a leading concern in the community. I will strive to offer social events that encourage possible love connections, as well as offer dating seminars because everyone deserves love. If someone is undatable, it’s not because of their disability, it’s because of their mentality. Luckily for them, it’s something they can change. Learning how to attract the right people is the key to success, and once you learn how it’s a breeze.

Lastly, I’m just an average 31-year-old woman who happens to use a wheelchair. I still want to be able to enjoy the same things as my able-bodied counterparts, but sometimes that is impossible not because I’m paralyzed, instead because of access. I understand that most discrimination is not intentional, but merely fueled by ignorance. It is evident education is the key to an accessible tomorrow. I hope to offer disability related videos that are both relative and educational for able-bodied and disabled individuals. The disabled community has been forced to be litigious because that was our only option for enforcing our rights. I’m proof that’s not the case and I’m proof that one person can make a proactive impact. If one person can do so much, what can we do together? I get so excited to think what we can do together. Imagine a world where you don’t fear if you can access the building and get in the restroom. It is up to us to ensure our approach is reasonable and well-thought out so we get the best results possible. It’s time for discrimination against people with disabilities to end and it’s time for people with disabilities to be reasonable in our requests.


Gina Schuh