Shining The Light- Miyah Sundermeyer

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The first person that I will be talking about is Miyah Sundermeyer from Atlanta. I went to school at Georgia State University and she helped out with the IDEAL program and that’s when I met her for the very first time. She’s always been very energetic and very caring about other people besides herself. Miyah is a very independent woman. She has her own house, a cat and hosts a podcast called “Hello World With Miyah Sundermeyer”. She doesn’t let her disability stop her from what she wants to accomplish in her life and I think that’s what we can all learn from her. Even though we might have disabilities ourselves, we can look up to that.  It may not seem like a big deal to you, but for us in the disability community, we have to overcome a lot of challenges.

The purpose of this series is to open people’s minds and to bring the disability conversation to the forefront. Miyah Sundermeyer has been employed at the Center for Leadership in Disability which is housed in the school of Public Health at Georgia State University. I had the opportunity to interview her. These are her answers to my questions…

Tell me about yourself and your story. What does your light show other people?

My name is Miyah Sundermeyer, and I work at the Center for Leadership in Disability, which is in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. Additionally, I am getting ready to graduate in December with a bachelor’s in psychology, my second degree.  Apart from this, I have been a homeowner in the greater Atlanta area for the last 11 years.  Currently, I own a red-headed roommate named AJ Mac, who says, “Meow.” In the meantime, I am very active in the disability community as a public speaker and an entrepreneur of a blog brand called “Hello World with Miyah.” Most recently, I just added a podcast to the brand.    Last but not least, I am a woman with an autism spectrum disorder.

Be that as it may, I didn’t always have these opportunities.   All in all, getting here has been no walk in the park.  Facing everything from discouragement, abuse, bullying, and discrimination, I had no choice but to fight for my rights.  Regardless, my light shows other people that one can overcome anything.

What are some challenges you face because of your disability?

Even though I have accomplished much in my lifetime, there are many things I struggle with.   Though I try to educate people, they refuse to listen once they find out that I “Live with autism.”  In their minds, I am someone who has a disability and who can’t have what others do. I am also someone who cannot take seriously. Suddenly, I am talked down to or blown off while others call me “Buddy” or give me knuckle bumps. When I ask them to stop, they often lie to me.  “Well, I do this with everyone, don’t take it so personally.”  Finally, they change the topic around me and assume that I have limited interests.

Among other things, I have learned that I need to be very careful in telling rents about my accomplishments.  Otherwise, they see me as someone who thinks I am “Better than everyone else who is superior to everyone else.” Yet, they also attempt to put me into the disability box and talk down to me. However, none of these people ever get to know me; it’s quite sad. They would rather compare me to their children and control me.

What do you want people to know or understand about you or anyone living with your disability?

People don’t often get it that disabled people want the same things as their non-disabled peers.  When they discourage us, they don’t realize they are damaging a person’s psyche and tearing us down.  Plus, they think having a disability makes us stupid, and therefore we can’t “Understand things.” Last but not least, society never teaches people that disabled people have rights. Instead, they are taught that a person with a disability will “Never amount to anything.”  They also assume all disabled people need to be seen and not heard in the background.

How has living with a disability led you to become a more compassionate person?

For one thing, I have learned to be more sensitive towards the way people are treated.  Whether they are abusive to someone or whether it’s through exclusion.  Take, for instance, family members.  I have seen them exclude their disabled loved ones from family vacations. Other times, non disabled people tend to support each other while ignoring me because I am autistic. The thing is, people are as clueless as to how they treat and affect others.

How can others show compassion to you or others living with your disability?

That depends on the person and their attitude completely and whether or not they want to listen. Some people just are not going to listen.   That being said, some are willing, and I would like to invest my time in those people.  Then you have people who have open minds and are eager to learn from their previous mistakes.

Jimmy Freels
Community Outreach Associate
Compassionate Atlanta

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