I am an alumnus of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program where I attended the University of Southern Indiana in 2010. The Global UGRAD Program brought me out of my comfort zone. As a disabled person with limited independent living skills, I had to force myself to become self-reliant during the program. For instance, my first trip on my own, without assistance, was the flight from Detroit, Michigan to Evansville, Indiana. The first time I crossed a busy street on my own was crossing University Boulevard at the university. I had to maintain my own apartment on campus. I had to practice advocating for myself during my classes by talking to professors and various university offices. I networked with disabled people’s organizations in Indiana to get the most out of the experience.
For a disabled person, independent living is a liberating and empowering experience. I brought this sense of independence home with me and it has become the unifying thread of my work. Inclusion has also been the focus of my work as a language and literature teacher by looking at disability and critical thought within the context of the humanities. Since 2016, I have served as an English Language and Literature instructor at Philippine Normal University’s Faculty of Arts and Languages. I am also a disability rights advocate working with various non-profits and disabled people’s organizations in the Philippines. I provide inclusion capacity building support and public policy consultancy services to disabled individuals, their families, teachers, schools, private organizations and relevant government agencies.
I would like to be recognized for my work as a teacher and as a champion for inclusion. In my little way, I would like my work to have a ripple effect and to make a marked difference in the lives of disabled people everywhere. I would like to be recognized as a thinker and a game-changer in the way we view inclusion, disability, and diversity in general.
I am now in the process of securing funding and applying to universities to pursue my Ph.D. which I hope to begin in 2020. Ten years from now, I see myself with a doctorate in English with a research concentration in critical disability theory. By then, I also hope to have established a Manila-based think tank focusing on critical disability and inclusion research to help guide the practice of inclusion across disciplines. Many ideas about disability and inclusion come from other countries. I think it is about time that people in the Philippines develop our own ideas which incorporate our culture and lived experiences.
Written by Erick Marco Ramos, 2010-11 Global UGRAD student, Philippines, University of Southern Indiana