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Disability Focus: Jessica Ross, MPH

Assistant Director of the Center of Excellence in Maternal, Child, and Adolescent 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? 

Jessica Ross: I am working toward being “out and proud” about my disabilities, but my fear of being discriminated against makes it so that I often choose to disclose to folks in smaller group settings. I want to be part of the ongoing efforts to destigmatize disabilities. This motivates me to share and contributes to my confidence about eventually being “out and proud!”

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

My disability has been foundational in developing a deeper sense of compassion, understanding, and creativity when I show up for myself and others.

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

It is very frustrating that people are expected to meet very specific standards in our society in order to be seen as capable and strong leaders. I’ve seen myself and others struggle thinking something is wrong with us because we don’t fit into that small box. This thought can create a lot of shame and can get in the way of accessing and utilizing support systems. Also, it leaves that small box unchallenged which is the core of the issue!