Diversity Fellow Project, Timotheus "T.J." Gordon

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Disability Awareness Training Curriculum

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Project Narrative

1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
This year, I’ve attended Disability Policy Seminar (DPS) with my Diversity Fellowship cohort from University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). I’ve gained tips on creating advocacy campaigns through data research while I was at DPS; I’ve also gave members of the cohort a few pointers on how to navigate DPS and hill visits. For my capstone project, I’ve created a curriculum and PowerPoint presentation for a 45-minute training on increasing disability awareness in marginalized communities. I’ve created the training in hopes of raising awareness to people in marginalized communities about the barriers and issues that affect disabled people in those communities, such as police violence, abuse, stigma, and lack of employment opportunities.

2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
My project impacts the general public within marginalized communities, who are looking to learn more about disability. By increasing disability awareness and acceptance in marginalized communities, people would be more aware of what disabled/Deaf/neurodivergent people deal with in those communities, and become encouraged to include them in the community and fight to end systemic violence (e.g., police violence) towards disabled people.

3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
I choose to work on that project because it hits home to me. Not only that I am at greater risk for experiencing state violence because I’m African-American and autistic, but I also grew up in marginalized neighborhoods where disability awareness is very low at best. I’m motivated, through the capstone project, to help people in marginalized communities to gain a better understanding of the disability community and seek means of including and accepting people with disabilities.

4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
I have gained more professional connections while I was a Diversity Fellow this year; I’ve met more advocates and professionals who I could talk disability advocacy with and potentially work with after I graduate.

5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
Being a Diversity Fellow enables me to explore more options in hosting trainings on various topics related to disability (e.g., accessing sexuality, autism acceptance) and mentoring autistic people of color in succeeding in college & exploring careers in media and entertainment.

6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I’m working to present promoting more disability acceptance and awareness in marginalized communities in spring 2019, at community health fairs throughout Chicago and nearby suburbs. Five years from now, I’ll continue to be active in bringing more autistic acceptance to African-American communities and other communities within the African Diaspora. I plan not only grow as an essayist, but also a key contributor in helping autistic people of color enter careers in media and entertainment (including e-sports).

7. What recommendations do you have for other Fellows?
If you’re stuck on what you want to do for your capstone project, and you have many good ideas, choose a project that you are passionate about, can use to market your work in advocacy or disability, AND able to complete within the timeframe of the Fellowship.

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