top of page
  • Melissa Tessaro

Hear Her Voice

Updated: Mar 27

While I have always identified as being disabled, I wasn’t always involved with the Disability Community. I’m personally proud to be a woman with a disability because even at times when my disability brings challenges, it makes me who I am.

A white woman in a dark orange smiling at the camera with dark brown shoulder length hair and glasses

“Women with disabilities — nearly 1 in 5 women worldwide — experience multiple forms of discrimination that create additional challenges for their activism and lives.”  (Women with Disabilities Leading Change, 2019). In a fact sheet for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women back in February 2013, the United Nations shared that “girls with disabilities experience discrimination and heightened vulnerability on account of their gender, age, and disability, and girls with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable”. It saddens but doesn’t surprise me to know that women with disabilities, who already face gender discrimination, face added discrimination based on disability. Yet, women with disabilities continue to advocate for us and fight for our communities since our voices are still often not heard. I dream of helping to carry out this fight and make the world a more inclusive place.

My passion for Disability Rights and the pursuit of a career involving disability advocacy came after watching the documentary Crip Camp and learning about the passionate disabled women who organized the 504 Sit-In in 1977, which resulted in the implementation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination of an individual based on disability in programs that receive Federal financial assistance. Watching the documentary and learning about Judy Heumann’s passion to fight for the Disability Community pushed me into a career where I can help continue the movement in my own way.

After watching the movie and learning more about the history, I was empowered to further my knowledge about the Disability Community by earning an advanced certificate in disability studies, which I completed in December. This program opened my eyes to issues people with different disabilities face. During my fellowship, I learned that subminimum wage is still legal for disabled workers in most states, so many people with disabilities are paid just a couple of dollars an hour. Additionally, I learned about the need to pass the Marriage Equality for Disabled Adults Act, ensuring government benefits are no longer at risk for an individual if they want to be legally married to their partner.

I also discovered that since I have always loved writing, being able to share matters that are important to me is a skill I could use to benefit the Disability Community. This led me to write several blogs dealing with disability advocacy matters. Part of my advocacy journey has also been an amazing fellowship last year at an organization that works to promote Disability Rights. During my fellowship, I learned what goes into the grant-seeking process. I feel this has helped me be a better advocate because it taught me how to address professionals when seeking assistance for a cause and showed me another way, I can use my love of writing to support the Disability Community. I am continuing to look for further career opportunities where I can continue my advocacy. I am eager to be one of the people who helps society see why certain changes are needed and be able to teach people how a more inclusive society can benefit many. In the meantime, I have started volunteering in my personal life with a local disability group.

My hope is that even just one disabled girl or woman will feel inspired by my work to get involved so that their voice can be added to the movement. The Disability Community and our allies are vital in helping bring to light these much-needed changes. I, like every other disabled person, wish to see a society that becomes increasingly more inclusive as time goes on. No one should be excluded from their own society because of their disability, and I plan to fight to make that a reality.

Learn more about Advocacy & Disability Rights here

Work Cited:

Women with Disabilities Leading Change. Disability Rights Fund. (2019, June 6). 

UN Women. (2013, February). Fact Sheet: Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities. [Fact Sheet] Retrieved January 9, 2024, from 


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page