According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 56.7 million people in the US struggle with some form of disability. That means that for every five people you meet on the street, at least one of them could be dealing with some unique physical, mental, or emotional challenge. But as a member of the College of Nursing media team has discovered, there’s more to that person than meets the eye.
Jonathan Schroeder is the newest member of the College of Nursing media team. He’s also part of a new social advocacy project working to change how people see and talk about disabilities.
“Sometimes, no matter how hard we try not to, we see people with disabilities differently,” Schroeder says. “When we think of Joe, the first thing we think of isn’t a brilliant student with a sense of humor; we think of the guy in a wheel chair. We don’t remember Suzy as a stunning artist; the first thing we think of is the girl who suffers from serious anxiety or depression. We forget that these people are so much more than the challenges they face.”
Schroeder and three of his friends started More Than What I Have (More Than), a project that is working to change how society sees disabilities.
“The goal of More Than is to recognize people for who they really are; not just the disability or challenge they might have,” says Kimball Vaughn, one of the project leads.
More Than showcases individuals with a wide range of disabilities; from well-known disabilities like Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy to more obscure ones like Crohn’s Disease or Raynaud’s Syndrome.
“Not all disabilities are visible,” project videographer Dan Hainesworth explains. “There are a lot of people who struggle with disabilities/conditions like anxiety or depression. We need to be just as aware of their needs as we would be with someone in a wheelchair.”
But rather than just highlight the disability itself, More Than is trying to emphasize all the amazing things that people with disabilities do.
“We’ve found a lot of really cool stories,” Schroeder shares. “For example, there’s a guy on the BYU Cheer Squad that has MS and a girl with severe depression who is an amazing make-up artist. We’re hoping that once we get enough stories out there, that people will start to see those who struggle with disabilities as more than just ‘a disabled person.’”
The group recently launched a #MoreThanWhatIHave challenge to help celebrate BYU’s Disability Awareness Week (October 23 – October 27). Participants are invited to create a simple 10-15 second video and post it on social media with the hashtag #MoreThanWhatIHave.
“The video challenge is a really easy way for anybody to show support for those with disabilities,” Vaughn explains. “All you need to do is pull out your cellphone and talk about a challenge you struggle with. It could be stress, stage fright, ADHD, sleeping troubles – whatever you feel like sharing. Then tell us how you define yourself. Share how you are ‘More Than What You Have.’”
“We’re really excited about this challenge,” Schroeder adds. “We hope that once people start to see themselves as “more than their challenges” that it’ll be easier to do the same for people with disabilities.”