New Goals for Advocacy

Have a plan. It means knowing what you want to do and how you are going to do it. It’s always easier said than done. When I was small, my grandfather explained to me: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan.” I later found through living a long life of some not-so-sound decisions what his words about planning meant. Although you can account for most difficulties, hurdles, and setbacks, you can NEVER have a contingency for any and everything that can go wrong. Hence the laughter others may have when your carefully laid, well-thought-out plan falls like a rickety Jenga tower. 

My Plan to Become a Better Advocate

Since my life has been affected by my disease, I have some new priorities and life goals. I have a growing passion for advocating for those who are disabled. I have learned some of the most important qualities of a good advocate include passion for your advocacy, good communication, assertiveness and having knowledge.

Merlisha researches from the comfort of her Edge 3 Power Wheelchair

I took my passion and signed up for several seminars and classes to help me improve as communicator. As I strive to advocate for the disability community, it has created wonderful business partnerships and friendships.

It Starts with Research

Extensive research and personal experiences helped me gain knowledge of issues in the disability community that have not been addressed. One of the challenges at the top of my list to change is the transportation structure for people in power wheelchairs. The latest statistics show that an average of 25 power wheelchairs are damaged each day in airports alone. I came up with a feasible solution to this issue, which I hope to pitch to several companies, so they can help me change the lives of those with disabilities.

Advocating for Change

As the current Ms. Wheelchair Arizona USA, I partner with local businesses to create family restrooms. My goal is to make sure caregivers and those who are disabled have a comfortable area to use the restroom and take care of their needs. Since my husband is my caregiver, we faced many challenges with local establishments. These places did not have an environment conducive toward those with disabilities or those who use power wheelchairs.

During my meetings with restaurant and hotel owners, I discovered that being approachable, amiable to interaction and just plain nice goes a long way. You increase the probability that you are taken seriously in your efforts to affect change. Engaging in general conversation and a willingly answering questions about your disease/disability can create a dialogue. This lets people understand how you overcome and navigate through life’s obstacles. Maybe I can help establish a solid foundation for the laws to come.

The Future

For the next five years, I promise myself that I will enjoy life as it comes. I plan to love living in all its parts and pieces. Most of all, my plan for the next five years is to become the true change that I want to see in the world.

About Merlisha Henderson: Merlisha uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair for mobility and lives in Arizona with her family. As a wife, mother and disability advocate in her community, she stays active and independent. Merlisha works toward bringing equality and access to all. Click here to learn more about Merlisha.