Ellie Potts is a very compassionate person to everyone she meets. She is hardworking and determined to continue her education. I met her at Georgia State University. She was a graduate student helping with the IDEAL program. She has CP, which means cerebral palsy. The reason why I wanted to interview her is, she became my friend while I was in the IDEAL program. She’s also an important voice to this conversation on shining your light.
Tell me about yourself and your story. What does your light show other people?
I was born in a small town. Many people didn’t think that I would have the opportunity for a full life. Even my doctors told my parents that I would have a difficult life and that it wasn’t worth their effort to fight for me. Thankfully they didn’t listen. Because of them, I got a good education with the general population and went to collegegraduated from Mercer University, but because of my disability, it was impossible for me to find a job in my small town. So finally I decided to go to graduate school at GSU to pursue a career in counseling. I’m almost done with my masters program and I hope to start my PhD next year. My goal is to become a professor and conduct research on how to improve the lives of other people with disabilities.
What are some challenges you face because of your disability?
I have severe cerebral palsy. I use a motorized wheelchair to move around and I need help from other people to do many daily tasks. Fortunately, I have a great team of people helping me and a very supportive family. With their help, I am able to live on my own and pursue my education.
What do you want people to know or understand about you or anyone living with your disability?
For me personally, many people don’t realize the amount of work that I put in to do the academic work that I do. While some people are able to write emails and take notes and do data entry, I need someone else to help me do all of those things. It takes a lot of time and patience to do things that are just part of daily life in graduate school.
How has living with a disability led you to become a more compassionate person?
I think that living with a disability has taught me to be patient with other people. Because I rely on others for 24/7 care, I have to be both a boss and a client. This means that I need to be accommodating of other people’s schedules and the challenges in their own life. It can be frustrating sometimes, but I think that being able to empathize with other people makes me a more compassionate person.
How can others show compassion to you or others living with your disability?
I think that one thing that everyone with a disability wants is for people to just treat us like people. Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the same things as you, have the same dreams as you, or face the same challenges as you. I think that the more we are able to view each other as equals, the better the world will be for everyone.