A Sophomore Occupational Therapy Student reflects on disAbility Conference

RJ Mitte, the keynote speaker for Scranton’s 16th Annual U.S. Conference on disAbility, was a very insightful speaker in addressing the abilities of those living with disabilities. I have never watched the show “Breaking Bad,” so I had no idea that he has cerebral palsy until it was mentioned in his introduction.

I found him to be a down-to-earth individual and very genuine. He is a determined young man. I think his attitude is something from which everyone can learn. Mitte truly believes that a person’s self is his or her biggest obstacle. By this, he means that we tend to limit ourselves when there is no reason to do so. According to Mitte, “Saying ‘I can’t’ is a choice.” I completely agree with this statement. People truly can do whatever they set their minds to do. This attitude is extremely important to have when working with people who have disabilities. If we do not have confidence in our clients’ abilities, it will be an even greater challenge for them to progress. As occupational therapists, we must be that extra encouragement for them during times of hardship.

A second comment that he made that really resonated with me was his comment that businesses see disability and liability as one and the same. My heart hurts at this statement. Individuals living with disabilities should be given the same opportunities as people who do not have disabilities. A person who has a disability is limited by other people and the environment more than any other factors. Many people with disabilities can do everything people without disabilities can do, they might just complete tasks in different ways.

The world must learn to embrace and encourage diversity. We as occupational therapists have an important role of advocacy for those who are wrongly labeled as being incapable. Listening to Mitte speak about becoming so successful with his acting despite others’ negativity was quite inspiring. It was heartwarming to hear the level of respect that he has for the allied health professions. I think he was a great guest to have and I look forward to hearing from the future disAbility conference keynote speakers.