"About Us" is a series of interviews with accomplished self-advocates in Florida.
Today, we shine a spotlight on Christinne Rudd, longtime advocate and Florida Self-Advocacy Central's new coordinator.
Rudd has over 20 years experience advocating in Florida. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, she has a Bachelor’s in Legal Studies and a Master’s in Criminal Justice. She’s blogged on issues like parenting with a disability and health and disability. Between her professional experience working directly with people with disabilities, then moving on to become a board member of a non-profit serving people with disabilities, she has a well-rounded toolkit of valuable knowledge. She began contributing as a writer to FSACentral in March of 2018 and became coordinator this summer. She is also advisor to FL SAND's MAGICAL group in the Orlando area.
Question: How important is being a person
with a disability to your identity?
Christinne: It’s kind of weird, I know I am disabled, but to me I am not. What I mean is that I was raised by people who told me I could do anything I wanted despite being in a wheelchair at the beginning of my life and having the prognosis that I wasn’t ever going to walk. They never let that stop me from doing what I wanted to do, nor have they ever treated me any differently than just a person. I take that as a positive thing and infuse that not only in to my life but in my work as well. I have been blessed to have great opportunities within the disability community. My only hope is that I can make a real and long-lasting difference that helps as many people as possible.
Question: When did you begin to identify as a self-advocate?
Christinne: Probably in high school when I was able to attend my IEP meetings. I had a great IEP team that valued my input. I really came into my own as a self-advocate when I started working and had to learn about self-advocacy firsthand. I had so many issues with transportation and that really helped pave the way for me professionally and personally to gain the advocacy skills and knowledge I have today. Although that part of my life brought many struggles since I was also trying to maintain full-time employment, I am extremely grateful for all it taught me and all the connections I made as a result.
Question: What is your funniest disability-related story?
Christinne: My funniest disability story would have to be during high school. I used to go to Atlantic City with one of my best friends and we’d been walking around a lot. If I get too tired, I have a greater tendency of falling; well, I took a dive on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and my cane slid a few feet past me and the people walking in the opposite direction. I had no idea my cane could do that (laughs), and it was pretty funny to see people dodge my cane as it was coming at them.
Question: What disability-related issue(s) is most significant to you?
Christinne: They would have to be transportation, employment, parenting with a disability, and access to healthcare. In my opinion, all these issues contribute to the full life experience in their own way and are important for different reasons.
Question: Can you share a time when your disability inspired a behavior, comment, or reaction that you found particularly obnoxious? What about a positive experience?
Christinne: A time where I found a behavior particularly obnoxious would have to be in the 7th grade. One of my classmates announced to the rest of the class that if they touched my left hand, which is double jointed and of my hands the more affected by my cerebral palsy, they would “catch” what I had because I was contagious. Obviously, this isn’t true but was very embarrassing to say the least, especially to a 12-year-old. The positive experience would have to be when I recently received a very nice compliment about my work with people with disabilities that was quite flattering. It sticks in my mind because it was totally unexpected on many levels and made me that much more grateful to have the ability to do what I do.
Question: If you could invite one person with a disability, living or dead, to have a conversation over coffee, who would it be? Why?
Christinne: It would have to be Christy Brown, the artist whose life was the subject of the movie "My Left Foot" starring Daniel Day Lewis. I’d love to talk with him and find out what it was like for him as a person with a disability to live in a different country and to better understand how, despite his limitations, and in interviews I’ve seen with him, his family never deterred him or his dreams.
Question: In 10 years, what would you most like to be different in the lives of persons with disabilities?
Christinne: I hope in ten years we will be seen as individuals who make valuable contributions to society in areas like employment where currently there’s a high unemployment rate for people with disabilities.
Question: If you could pick one song as your theme song, what would you choose?
Christinne: The theme song from "Rocky." I believe it’s called "Getting Strong Now." My mom used to tell me that when I was born they had to put me in an incubator because I only weighed two pounds and thirteen ounces. She would go to the hospital and think of that song in her head hoping I would get strong enough to go home. I think I’ve always kept that song in the back of my mind to help me overcome all the obstacles I’ve had to face in my life.
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