Conference Access Blogs: Dr. Michelle Hernandez

by Dr. Michelle Hernandez

My name is Dr. Michelle Hernandez, I am currently the only Latinx Clinical Psychologist who specializes in disability and who is also disabled herself. This unique perspective allows me to incorporate my extensive educational training with my vast amount of personal experiences when it comes to inclusion, disability, and the intersectionality therein. I am located in the San Francisco Bay Area, more specifically Concord, California.

This conference would not have been possible for me to attend without the support of WID and JPMorgan Chase. Kat, Jessica, and Tom did an exemplary job of solidifying travel arrangements and keeping the ambassadors well informed on what to expect before each day of the conference. The public transportation was accessible and easy to maneuver. The Metro was clean and the agents were helpful. The wheelchair taxis were prompt and the drivers were kind, courteous, and knowledgeable. The venue itself was open and easy to get around in for a wheelchair user. The breakout sessions varied in size due to the amount of people in attendance. The staff made sure that I sat/parked where I wanted to be, even if it meant that furniture needed to be moved.

2 women in electric wheelchairs smile in front of a large
WID Disability Ambassadors Michelle (left) and Ligia (right) pose in front of the CHCI sign.

Disability is critically important when it comes to public policy because it is one of the least represented marginalized minority groups in the United States today. Even on an international level, Latinas with disabilities are not given an opportunity to voice their concerns and make appropriate changes within the legislative process. Disability is an “equal opportunity employer”, meaning it can affect each and every one of us throughout our lifetimes. This being said, who better to serve and protect the Latinx community than those who have and are living with both apparent and non-apparent disabilities? Laws need to be written, passed, and advocated for so that services such as healthcare, housing, and preventive medicine can increase individuals’ quality of life and consequently, their overall well-being.

It is with great enthusiasm that I share with you more good news. While I was in a break out session for Latinos in the Media, I talked with someone who advised me of a few things, including opportunities I could pursue. Upon returning from the conference, I looked them up and applied for a fellowship with a national disability rights organization. Less than 4 hours after I submitted my information, I got a call asking me if I would be able to relocate to DC for 9 weeks and participate in their training curriculum. I am confident that this wouldn’t have happened without WID choosing me as an Ambassador and paying for me to attend CHCI.

The Conference Accessibility Initiative by JPMorgan Chase and WID makes a huge difference for people with disabilities by simply including them as a viable resource. In a world that stigmatizes disability in a negative, pathological, and infantilizing manner, JPMorgan Chase and WID have changed the paradigm. Now, disability will be seen and individuals will be given opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. For example, I was also encouraged to apply to be a Fulbright Scholar, where they shared with me that other disabled individuals had done so and appropriate accommodations had been made. This was truly a life changing experience for me and the first time I was seen as a person first instead of, ‘the girl in the wheelchair.’

With my deepest gratitude I genuinely thank you!
Dr. Michelle Hernandez

Would you like to be a Disability Ambassador with WID and JP Morgan & Chase? Applications for 2020 are now available!

To read more about our Disability Ambassadors’ experiences at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Leadership Conference 2019, follow either link below:

Ligia Zúñiga’s CHCI Blog

Dayamarali Espinosa’s CHCI Blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, check out our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 page.

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