alycia anderson DEI advocate, speaker black and white photo in wheelchair outside

How I became a disability advocate and speaker

Little did I know my future of advocacy

Would begin from the moment my cell split into two, and I was born alongside my identical twin sister, Regina. We have all the identical twin characteristics that you would expect, same eyes, same hair, same complexion, same will and want to live and navigate this life, but there is one significant difference, she can walk and I will never know how that feels. Who know the makings of a disability advocate and speaker were in the making, even at this early juncture?

I was born with Sacral Agenesis

Which is underdevelopment of my spinal chord at the sacrum. Living with this type of disability, the doctors were like – “Don’t give her the surgery she needs, she is not going to make it.“ It took my parents saying, “We’re gonna give her what she needs to give her a chance to thrive.”

Advocating for each other

Is where inclusion starts. In the mid 70’s, there was a huge push for the disability rights movement. The Rehabilitation Act was passed in 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, and that’s where equality and DEI became a pillar of people iwth disabilitiies..

I was born in 1975 and my dad would tell me as a little girl, “You have no idea how lucky you are to have been born literally, exactly when you were.” Before, when babies were born, like me, they were hidden away and never spoken of again.

I started speaking several years ago. I was encouraged by a mentor and a professor in college. She gave me my first opportunity to speak. Choosing these paths forward to inclusion shows society that its possible. When I was in college, I was insecure and I had so many doubts about my disability.

From that first moment I started speaking as a disability advocate, I could see the light in the audience’s eyes.
Over time, I’ve built up my business and I’m a motivational speaker and I coach corporations on inclusion. ”To have this opportunity to talk about the power of diversity, equity and inclusion, and our collective effort.”

I was integrated in schools before speaking up was ever encouraged. I was the first one that had a tennis wheelchair that you could play sports with. Even the first waitress in a wheelchair, I have always had to work. The greatest gift that I got from wheelchair tennis was two things, my independence and strength, but also, I met my husband. He is my partner and he loves me deeper than any man ever has, for all of it.

Ableism is a word

That is not commonly recognized in our society today. Ableism is a discrimination or a social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. My disability has elevated my life and it empowers me to look at life in a different way, to be proficient in ways over somebody else, where I am having to navigate environments that are unknown, as I go from meeting to meeting, and state to state, and airplane to airplane.

The opportunity to find a path forward for everyone is always there. Both my mother and father have passed away. My mom passed away when I was seven and she laid down this foundation of strength that I would be able to navigate a world that was not ready for me my entire life and be an independent, strong woman.

Being on the TEDx stage felt like a dream. I rolled onto this dark stage. It was just me, the TEDx sign behind me, and my mother. To get out in front of so many people and give the gift of belief that anything is possible if we are willing to try together was the greatest honor of my life.

Pushing Forward with Alycia

Now, it’s the greatest gift being able to bring all of my learnings full circle and to host the podcast “Pushing Forward with Alycia” I can become a stronger disability advocate and my guests and I can bring awareness and understanding to topic like DEI + disability, disability intersectionality, workplace inclusion, invisible disability, and more.