My name is Anna Pickett and I am in my early 20s. I was born a bilateral upper extremity amputee, which is the long winded way of saying I way born without hands. Despite what one might think upon seeing me, I live a well-rounded, full life with my disability. I strongly and genuinely believe my disability has given me more in my life than hands ever could have. This does not mean I have not bumped up against my fair share of obstacles, or that ableism (oppression of people with disabilities) is not a real presence in my life. People look at me with pity and I feel sorry for them because they have such a narrow view of what a good and beautiful life can look like. I am proud to have a disability but I am not defined by it. My disability does not dictate my life or how I move in this world, I do that. Too few people with disabilities are pushed to achieve their full potential. I, along with many others with disabilities, have so much to give this world if given the chance to do so. This is the message I want to send to everyone, but particularly to young people with disabilities and those influencing their childhood. That every human being, no matter how they identify, deserves the right to achieve their full potential and share their gifts with the world.
I was lucky to have been raised and brought up in a way that encouraged me to dream and achieve. It was one of the great gifts of my childhood, the gift of high expectations. I was born and raised in Northern California, attended university in Washington state, and now live in Nicaragua as a researcher and disability activist. I graduated from Seattle University, with a degree in Humanities for Leadership and Spanish; my specialization being Equality Rights and Advocacy. In my work, I have tried to bring about awareness of the social experience of disability, emphasized the need to reclaim the word “disabled,” and participated in important discussions around how different forms of oppression and “other-ing” function in society. In order to make progress on a larger societal scale we have to be discussing how different systems of power and oppression relate to one another and work to marginalize people who do not fit the “norm.” Ableism, racism, sexism, discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, islamophobia, classism and many other forms of discrimination in our society today, often have a compounding effect. The experiences of people from different groups are unique and people with multiple identities outside the dominant group often experience multiple layers of oppression. I believe our oppressions, although unique and varied, are bound up with one another and, in the same way, so is our liberation from systems of power and domination that perpetuate that oppression. Working together, actively listening to one another and approaching each another from a place of humanity and empathy is a good place to start in making positive change and bringing about a better, more equitable world.