Voices Across America

My own disability woke me up to a life of advocacy

Isabel Mavrides-Calderon

State: New York
Congressional District: NY12


Chronic Pain, Genetic Disease, Rare Disease

Issues and Challenges

Isabel Mavrides-Calderon has encountered: Access to Expert Providers, Access to Medicine, Disability, Discrimination (nonmedical), Invisible Illness

My Story

Hi, I’m Isabel Mavrides-Calderón and I'm a 16 year old activist and organizer passionate about creating policy change to create a world with more civil rights and accessibility for all disabled folk. It's what I care about more than anything else.

I often think about what led disability rights to become the focal point of my life. I wish I could say that I would have been as passionate about disability rights if I had never become disabled myself, but I don’t think that’s true. I didn’t have the perspective to see beyond my privileged able-bodied bubble.

When I was 11 I gained that perspective -- I had a spinal injury and went through a journey of figuring out what was the root cause, which led to doctors appointments, surgeries and learning to live life with chronic illness and disability. Through that journey I learned that many doctors have biases. I learned how expensive treatments could be. I learned that doctors don’t respond as positively to my immigrant mother with a Spanish accent or me, a young Latina girl but they do respond to my white-passing father, a man. I watched the lack of access in schools, workplaces, everywhere. I watched the disabled community die and be left behind in the pandmeic due to modern day eugenics and ableist legislation. These experiences are what sparked my passion. It’s what caused me to educate myself on policy, legislation, the Supreme Court rulings that oppress disabled folk, and the change we urgently need to make.

When I was in bed recovering from spinal surgery, depressed, feeling powerless and helpless I realized that even stuck in bed I had the power to make change, we all do. I organized my first accessible protest, which took place in Australia, from my bed across the world in New York City. That made me realize that my pain had so much power and that my life has so much purpose.

The perspective I gained made me stand up (figuratively) to dedicate my life to changing those laws and fighting for more protections these past 5 Years. Change can be made from anyone anywhere. My experiences completely changed the trajectory of what I want to do with my life and gave me a purpose, a mission for the change I want to make. I’m a sophomore in high school so I have a long way to go but I hope to study public policy and be the person writing the policy that protects disabled folk.

If I could get rid of my health challenges I would, but I will always be grateful for the perspective I gained. I’ve made it my goal to dedicate every day to turning my pain Into power because we all have power, we all have a voice to make change. My own health experiences were a wake up call that will forever change my life. So today I urge you, let today be your wake up call. And make a call! Literally make a call to your senator to sign The SSI restoration act of 2021!

My Motivation and Inspiration

My motivation comes from the disabled community and our history of resilience and fighting for rights. When I think about the powerful pioneers of the disability rights movement like Judy Hueman and Kitty Cone, I remember that change is possible when we come together, organize and use our voice.

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