Here at Florida Self Advocacy Central, we strive to highlight powerful self-advocates in the community. Arizona Jenkins is a forty-two-year-old who does not let his Cerebral Palsy define or limit him. He has been a lifelong self-advocate going as far as persuading city officials in Tampa Florida to improve the bus system for people with disabilities. He also is the head of the New Horizon group which strives to mentor disabled children and educate the abled body community. We are honored to have the chance to interview and get to know him. He is a great addition to our ongoing Q and A series with self-advocates. The interview can be found below.
- How important is being a person with a disability to your identity? Has this always been the case?
Arizona: I don’t see myself as different, people don’t notice my disability. They notice me as a person.
- When did you begin to identify as a self-advocate?
Arizona: I begin to identify as a self-advocate from an early age. If I had to pinpoint a specific time it would have to be in junior high.
- What is your funniest disability-related story?
Arizona: My Cerebral Palsy only effects the left side of my body. I use a wheelchair and have a caregiver with me most of the time. I do not let my disability slow me down, one funny story comes to mind. I was at a meeting in Orlando, Fl when I fell out of my chair in my room, my caregiver had a room next to mine but she could not hear call for help, I had to crawl to door to get her. Unfortunately, I had no clothes on and locked myself out of my room and was stuck in the hallway until my caregiver unlocked the door.
- What disability related issue(s) is most significant to you, and why?
Arizona: There are many issues that are important, when it comes to advocacy, however the most important to me would have to be transportation. Transportation is a huge problem in the disability community. If we a cannot easily get around it is impossible for us to interact with and contribute to society.
- Can you share a time when your disability inspired a behavior, comment, or reaction that you found particularly obnoxious? What about a positive experience?
Arizona: This is an interesting question because like I said I don’t see myself as different however sometimes society does. It frustrates me when I’m out in public and I ask for assisted and someone is not willing to help on the other hand, I take great pride and the fact that sometimes abled bodied people and disabled people will come up to me and appreciate my work as an advocate.
- if you could invite one person with a disability, living or dead, to have a conversation over coffee, who would it be and why?
Arizona: My answer to the question does not involves a famous person. I would invite my friend Joda because he’s now disabled but hasn’t always been. He can relate to both disabled and abled bodied people.
- In ten years, what would you most like to be different in the lives of people with disabilities?
Arizona: To answer this question, I have to bring up a crucial issue within the disability community. Currently, provider rates are not adequate enough, therefor direct care workers do not get paid an appropriate wage, as a result, the quality of services suffer. In ten years, I hope that this will have dramatically changed.
- If you could pick one song as your theme song, what would you choose?
Arizona: I would pick Lean on Me.