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Disability Focus: Charlotte Smith, PhD

Continuing Lecturer, UC Berkeley School of Public Health

October is Disability Awareness Month, when the UC Berkeley campus celebrates the accomplishments of people with disabilities. We’ve asked members of the Berkeley Public Health community–staff, students and faculty–who identify as having a disability to share their thoughts and experiences with us.

Berkeley Public Health: Do you chose to hide your disability at work or school out of fear of discrimination or are you “out and proud” or somewhere in between?

Charlotte Smith:  I’m out and proud.

How might your disability, or disability in general, be seen as a secret weapon?

It makes me appreciate everyday. Everyday that I can walk is like winning the lotto. I believe that having a disability makes one more empathetic to others.

What is the most frustrating thing you encounter in regards to disability access?

Parking on campus.

How do you feel people with disabilities are perceived? Does it make a difference if the disability is visible vs. invisible?

Some people think those with disabilities can never achieve the same level of expertise as people without disabilities. Clearly, those people didn’t follow Stephen Hawking’s career. My neurodegenerative disease has been invisible for most of the 25 years I’ve had it. I notice a difference now that people see me walking with assistive devices or in a mobility-scooter.

Why is it important for contributions of people with disabilities to be included in the field of Public Health, and in the workplace at large?

So people can see the tremendous positive impact that those with disabilities can make to society.