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  • YO! Alumni Profile: Jenaro Soto

    Photo of a man in his car.
    Featured Alumni Jenaro Soto


    1. Why did you originally get involved with YO?

    YO presented the opportunity to develop leadership and professional skills.

    2. What did you gain from being a part of YO?

    It helped me develop professional and leadership skill. It taught  me what it meant to be an advocate and what it takes to make a difference. Through YO, I also gained a deeper understanding of what it is to be a person with a disability, which helped me proudly identify as one.

    3. Would you do it again if you could? Why?

    With no hesitation, I will do it again! YO! offers so much, I didn’t get a chance to experience all of it.

    4. Would you refer or recommend a youth to YO!?

    I highly recommended YO to all youth who want to learn more about disability culture, and for those want to make a positive change in the way society treats and views people with disabilities.

    5. What was the best part of being a YO! Volunteer or YAC member?

    Making friends and learning from each other. The Stipend was nice too. LoL

    6. How would you describe YO! to a friend?

    YO! will open your eyes to a world few people know very little about. It will help you develop the skills required to make a change in your community!

    7. What have you accomplished since you completed your Volunteer with time YO! or time on the YAC?

    I have transferred to the University of California Irvine, from where I will be graduating with my BS in Neuroscience. I have applied to Ph.D programs and I am currently interviewing.











  • Being a Part of History: Collaborating with the Documentary “Crip Camp”

    By Blake Webber

    I’ve always been fascinated with history; I enjoy learning from the past as well as from other people’s experiences. Growing up with Cerebral Palsy, disability history has always held a particular importance to me. Ed Roberts, Justin Dart, and Judy Heumann have always been my role models. Naturally, when the opportunity to be a part of a film about disability history came up, I was thrilled. I learned that as part of this opportunity, we would be watching a documentary called Crip Camp. Crip Camp is about a summer camp for disabled youth that took place in 1971. Because of my interest in history, I couldn’t wait to see how the youth in the documentary viewed disability and ableism.


    After we watched the documentary, our group had the opportunity to talk with Judy Heumann and Jim LeBrecht about our individual reactions to the footage we had just seen. It was a great experience to hear that other people had similar challenges, this provided a good sense of community. After watching the clip, I couldn’t help but think that it could have been filmed yesterday. The only major difference is that the documentary was shot in black and white rather than color. Despite the forty-six year difference, I really felt a connection to the youth that were portrayed in 1971. The issues they were expressing then of wanting to excel in life and be productive regardless of their disabilities are things that I deal with every day.


    I view my disability as a positive and that, I believe, is the most important impact Judy has had on me. Ableism is viewing disability as a problem to be overcome. I believe that the key to defeating ableism is to instead view disability as a natural part of what it means to be human. Crip Camp has the potential to become much more than a film. I think it can help start a wider discussion that can change the view of disability into something to be celebrated rather than something to be overcome. Too many documentaries portray people with disabilities as heroic and inspiring rather than regular human beings. While every person has their own unique challenges, we as a community have far more to offer the world than just inspiration. Crip Camp shows the viewer how the disability community, and the individuals in it, view ourselves rather than how people without disabilities view us. I believe this is key for future generations, both disabled and otherwise, to help further inclusion and diversity rather than exclusion. At the end of the day, despite our many differences, we are all human beings; Crip Camp shows us the power of equality.


    Young man in a power chair wearing all black smiles at the camera

    Blake enjoys history and technology because he believes both are very important to the disability community. When he is not volunteering or working on a project involving disability rights or assistive technology he plays play video games with friends.



  • How Do You Heal from Bullying?

    YO! Disabled & Proud Blog


    By Anonymous

    For me, bullying has been one of the most painful experiences. Bullying is hard when it comes from friends or acquaintances, but even harder when it is from family members.  I cannot describe the amount of pain that bullying has caused me.

    I believe that people don’t recognize how much of a negative impact bullying can have on students with disabilities. In my experiences, bullying can affect your self-esteem, your ability to socialize, worsen your anxiety or depression symptoms, and cause isolation.

    Bullying can be prevented, and the work YO! does is helping people to recognize that bullying is a major issue faced by youth with disabilities. I have found a few techniques that I use to help me cope with bullying. I will share them below, hopefully they can help you too.

    1.  I like to listen to loud music through headphones right after I have been bullied.  This helps to block out all the horrible words that were said so I can focus on other things.
    2.  When you are being bullied, try to immediately leave the situation. Whether that means leaving the family dinner table, a social gathering, or going home from a friend’s house. I have found it best to immediately distance myself from the bully.
    3.  I like to say positive affirmations to myself. Affirmations like “I am goodness”, “I am beauty”, “I am health”, and “I am peace” can do wonders for your self-esteem. Saying it in front of a mirror is very powerful. Some people even write sticky notes with their positive affirmations and place them on their mirror as a reminder.
    4.  Speak to your emotional support team right after you have been bullied. Have a conversation and tell them what just happened. If you have been bullied at school, you can also speak to your teacher or other administrators.

    Some of these tips may seem silly, but they have worked for me and they may work for you too. Our ability to heal ourselves shouldn’t be underestimated. We are powerful and capable human beings who can access emotional healing.  I hope some of my tips above will help you to heal and combat bullying.

    Below is a video of other youth with disabilities sharing some words of kindness.


    If you have been bullied, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Check out some of our resources below and find even more in the resource section on this page http://yodisabledproud.org/organize/own-my-power.php.






  • YO! Shout Out: Allie Cannington


    Earlier this April, Youth Organizing (YO!) Disabled and Proud participated in the California Coalition for Youth’s Taking Action Conference, which is `dedicated to advocating and serving homeless and disconnected youth. Every year at this conference they take a moment to honor the service providers in the youth field that excel at supporting youth. This year they honored Allie Cannington, former YO! Volunteer extraordinaire, with the Susan Matheson Mentoring Award.

    When YO! started in 2009, one of our first volunteers was a young woman named Allie Cannington. Since then, she has gone on to do amazing work with youth including those that are disabled, LGBTQ, homeless, at risk of being homeless, and/or disconnected from services that they desperately need.

    Her devotion to youth issues was started with her work at YO! and the Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities. She took what she learned with both programs when she relocated to Washington, D.C. to study and work for five years on local, statewide, and national disability rights and social justice initiatives. Allie served as the Youth Transitions Fellow for the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) where they led national and local efforts to empower and organize intersectionally marginalized youth with disabilities, particularly through self-advocacy, community empowerment, and employment development initiatives.

    We at YO!could not be more proud of Allie, or the work that she has accomplished in her young life. Christina Mills–  Deputy Director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) and one of Allie’s mentors– (who also won the Sue Matheson mentoring award in 2009, a fact that Allie herself was ecstatic about) said it best:

    “The spark that was ignited when Allie began her disability justice journey as a youth continues to flourish with passion and purpose. The fire in the belly that now resides within Allie is what others see and feel as she demonstrates her leadership skills and impacts the lives of others who ultimately become a part of the growing circle of disability pride and community because of her.

    Allie Cannington now works at Larkin Street Youth Services as Youth Advisory Board Coordinator. She brings the spirit of the disability rights community into everything that she does encompassing wholly with her life’s work the idea of “nothing about us, without us”. We know that Allie will continue to do amazing things and bring together multiply marginalized communities to form a more unified society through practices of understanding and listening.

    Congratulations on your accomplishments, Allie. We wish you nothing short of the best.

    Photo Description: A Woman with long Brown hair and Glasses smiling and standing(Allie) next to a woman sitting in a wheelchair(Yolanda)


  • Let’s Talk Accommodations

    YO! Disabled & Proud Blog


    By Leanne Libas

    Accommodations. What is your first impression of this word? Does it bring relief? Or does it bring back some unsettling memories? For me, it reminds of the memories of being curious and having contempt towards the word and the idea of having them. Prior to discovering my autism diagnosis, I did not know why I had accommodations nor what accommodations were.

    Accommodations – any change or adjustment to the way things usually are done that would allow an individual with a disability to perform job functions, or enjoy equal access to benefits available to other individuals.

    After discovering my autism diagnosis, I understood why I had accommodations but I still did not understand what accommodations were. So, what happened? Well, the accommodations were a part of my Individualized Education Plan (IEP), however, I did not use them. I aspired to be like my classmates who completed their school work without having any accommodations. I wanted to fit in. I never wanted to stand out. Besides, I was not prepared to answer some of my classmates’ questions because I still did not understand what accommodations were. I knew I had accommodations because of my disability, yet I could not explain what an IEP is. I thought that people may not like how I would get extra time on tests and they would say how unfair the system was. Most importantly, I did not want to be treated differently.

    Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.

    When I went through the Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities, I gained a better perspective of what accommodations were. I am not going to lie, it took a while to rid myself of the ableist stereotypes that I had, especially when it came to accommodations. I remember internally rolling my eyes during my last IEP meeting when my former speech pathologist told me to sign up for my college’s disability services program so I get accommodations.

    Ableism – (also known as ablism, disablism, disability discrimination, and handicapism) is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled

    Her reasoning? She told me that a four-year university’s disability services program would not take in a disabled community college transfer student who did not sign up for their school’s disability services program. I am not sure what she told me was true or not but I decided to follow her advice, much to my chagrin. I yelled internally, “Fine! I will sign up! It’s not like I am going to use them at all!”


    Girl in a classroom setting lost in deep thought.
    Something as small as having extra time to take a test can be considered an accommodation.


    Eventually, I realized that I had to use accommodations. My epiphany occurred when I took my first math quiz during my undergraduate freshman year at my local community college. I knew the material, yet I was nervous because I heard my classmates talking about the quiz and saying how nervous they were. For those who know what autism is, I am going to tell you right now that the stereotype of how a/Autistic people do not feel empathy is a lie! I was still extremely anxious when I was taking the quiz. I honestly do not know how I got through that quiz but I made it through by trying to breathe.

    In the end, I did well on the quiz but I realized that I had to use my accommodations. The last thing I wanted was to become nervous each time I took a quiz or an exam. Don’t get me wrong! It is perfectly natural to be nervous! However, when your anxiety takes over your body to the point where you are unable to control it — that is when you realize that you have to find a way to calm your senses so you are able to succeed. In this case, the best solution for me was to take the quiz somewhere else. In the end, I immediately spoke with my math professor in regards to the quizzes and my test-anxiety. She accommodated me by letting me take the quizzes in the math and science division office prior to coming to class. This accommodation actually helped me and I ended up passing the class.

    I am grateful for having accommodations. If I was in a sticky situation similar to my math class scenario, then I am confident to know that I am accommodated. I learned that it is okay to admit that you need and do not need accommodations. Why did I say these two things that are contradicting each other? What I mean by this is how some people may need more accommodations than others, and there are some people that do not have and/or use accommodations at all. And you know what? That is completely fine. It is important that the person is comfortable with their environment, whether or not they need the accommodations. For me, the accommodations that I use the most are having extra test time, recording lectures, and sitting in front of the classroom. However, the accommodations I do not use so much are leaving the room and the app, Kurzweil Firefly. In addition, I do not have accommodations when I work or volunteer because I feel completely fine when I am completing my tasks. However, if I need accommodations then I will address it to my supervisors.

    Overall, we, as disabled people, have the choice to decide what works and does not work for us. We are capable of creating successful lives for ourselves, whether or not we have and/or use accommodations. Nevertheless, all of us must recognize how limiting accommodations are equivalent to the lack of accessibility. And you know what? Let’s just not just make accommodations specifically for disabled people but for everyone.

    Blog Author Leanne Libas
    Blog Author Leanne Libas
    Leanne ​is currently pursuing higher education in hopes of becoming a teacher. When she’s not busy, she likes to write, watch lots of YouTube videos, and take naps.














  • YO! We’re Blogging

    Everyone and their mother seems to have a blog, does the Internet really need another one? Absolutely! You may be asking, “What is a blog?”  A blog is a place for people to share their ideas about something that is important to them, or something that they have personally experienced and want to share. A blog can be made up of words, pictures, or a video. Blog posts are placed on the same webpage each time a new story is added. That way youth on the Internet can visit the blog and see what other youth are talking about. Our Youth Organizing (YO!) blog will be about all kinds of disability topics that youth may care about or want to write about. Many amazing youth with disabilities have blogs/vlogs/plogs (picture blogs), but it’s often only one person talking about several different things. The YO! Blog posts will be written from a variety of youth with different types of disabilities and lived experiences.


    Based on our conversations with YO! Members and other youth across the country, YO! has compiled a list of blog topics that youth want to hear or know about. Many of us have no one else in our lives who are also disabled that we can relate to, who understand what it’s like to be disabled in a world that isn’t always accessible and accepting of us. Many youth are looking for a place where they can discuss disability culture and what it’s like to be faced with ongoing disability related things. Unfortunately these are the kinds of topics and issues that we are not often encouraged to talk about through school or other systems that should be there to “support” us, but really want to fix, ignore, or take away our disabilities. The YO! Blog is for all of the youth with disabilities out there who want to talk about real disability topics and how having a positive disability identity is okay (In fact, it’s cool!).


    If you’re a youth with a disability who wants to share your experiences with other youth, we invite and encourage you to submit a post. Show other people like yourself that we are not alone! New postings will be shared on a monthly basis, at minimum. Below is a list of blog posting guidelines for you to follow.

    Here are the topics: http://yodisabledproud.org/blog/blog-post-topics/


    Guidelines for YO! Blog Guest Writers

    Must be a youth ages 16-28 years old

    No hate speech directed towards a group (unless it is part of past events)

    Trigger and content warn your submissions (not sure what those are? We will help you figure it out)

    Keep cursing to a minimum

    Only individuals who fit the description of the intersectionality topic can submit on that topic, (just like a non-disabled people can’t speak to what it is like to be disabled, non-LGBTQ or non-people of color can not speak for those topics).

    We will feature written blogs, picture blogs and video blogs.

    Written Blogs:  should be between 250 – 1000 words.

    Picture Blogs:  Caption your photos with descriptions of the content. 5 pictures per topic.

    Video blogs: 1:30-3:00 minutes with caption.