It takes a lot to overcome one’s own personal hardships. But for University of South Alabama senior Shaudell Brooks, her personal achievement turned into a mission to change the world.
In many ways, the 23-year-old Alabama native is like most women her age. As a senior at her university, Brooks is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a minor in sociology. However, unlike many students at the university, Shaudell has muscular dystrophy and because of her disability has experienced a great deal of obstacles.
But despite these obstacles, Brooks refused to let her condition prevent her from accomplishing her many goals. And in order to ensure that individuals like herself are offered the resources and accessibility they deserve, she launched D.R.E.A.M.S., standing for Disability Rights Equalizing Access and Motivating Success.
According to AL.com, Brooks says the organization was founded because of one specific incident. In 2013, Brooks was at a football game where her University was facing off against Mississippi State. Before going to the game, she decided to take precautions and was told she would be able to sit near the student section.
However, once she arrived at the game, a very different scenario played out. As it turns out, Brooks was not allowed to access the gate she needed to enter with her wheelchair. And while other gates allowed her to enter, police would not allow her to sit near the student section.
More officers got involved and told Brooks and her friends they were not allowed to sit in the section. Ultimately, Brooks and her friends ended up leaving, but the act of discrimination left a mark on her.
“In creating this organization, I wanted to bring students together across the University of South Alabama to let them know we are here, there is nothing you can do about it, and we will enjoy our college years the way students without disabilities can,” Brooks told Al.com.
Unfortunately, disability-related discrimination is not uncommon. In fact, only 17.1% of people with a disability were employed in 2014. Brooks hopes that her organization will work to provide equal access to disabled persons and end discrimination.