Importance of Education

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Importance of Education

I think most every one would agree that having a good education is paramount  in living in today’s society.  This is especially true for those with complex disabilities.  I was born with cerebral palsy at a time in history when institutionalization was the only option.  Being African American and female made it even more unlikely that I would survive what society had to offer.  However, my mother insisted that I  be educated similarly to my able-bodied brother just 15 months older.  In the 1950’s, there was no documented information to contradict what my mother said was possible.  Therefore, the professionals did as my mother instructed.  Contrary to the common practice at the time, the diagnosis of “mentally retarded” was not ascribed to me.  When it was  suggested, my mother said that he had taught me how to read.  Her insistence that she was able to understand my very difficult speaking pattern kept that label absent from all records regarding my diagnosis of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy.

Beyond a Bachelor

Having excelled through all academic endeavors through a Masters Degree from the Pennsylvania State University, I accomplished many years of professional experience.  I continue to emphasize  those very early years because the United States sees to be going backwards, at least in any parts of the country.

In my self published memoir, It’s Easier to Dance – Living Beyond Boundaries, I emphasize the complexities of being disabled and of multicultural heritage.  It is a reality that has yet to be addressed in our c0untry.


Annie Meachem
Annie Meachem
rs. Harris-Meachem is a dedicated and persistent advocate for women who, for a variety of reasons find themselves living on the margins of society due to the social stigma of their disability and culture. Having earned her graduate training at the Pennsylvania State University in 1985, she went on to do to work as a clinician with the chemically dependent. Her work with this population put her in the position to be a member of the management team at the prestigious World Institute on Disability (WID) where the first HIV/Disability Project brought these two groups the same Culture of Disability. Mrs. Meachem's grant proposals to educate both communities about HIV and those traditionally diagnosed as disabled was a challenge she embraced. In fact after resigning her position at WID, she traveled 4 times to the third world countries to observe and document the impact of HIV in some of the most deprived areas of Haiti and Zimbabwe. She continues to challenge the stereotypes that plague those with complex disabilities even in today’s society, especially in healthcare, higher education and employment where she continues to confront those who refuse to follow the federally mandated laws and regulations as set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is persistent in her efforts to reduce the biases and stereotypical assumptions, still held by some even today. She wrote her memoir to educate, encourage and inspire others in hopes that there will be more written accounts of those who live with complex, chronic health conditions that carry a distinct social stigma. Her memoir, it’s Easier to Dance –Living Beyond Boundaries, the first book to contain a chronological view of the historical development of the civil rights movement from three different perspectives; as a woman, a minority, one living with a developmental disability. Mrs. Meachem also hopes to encourage those in the medical profession and social services to not be so quick in their diagnoses when more time is required when evaluating a patient with such complexities. The style of writing used makes it an excellent text book that allows the reader to take on one of the characters, seeing different periods of history from several perspectives. It is available in bulk orders for institutions of higher learning to be included on reading lists for a variety of courses on Disability & Culture; Public Policy & Health Issues. Through her new non profit. Disability Rights Education Foundation she aspires to have an impact at the national level.
  • Chris Lenart says:

    Anne, great post!

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