Dr. Eileene Shake is a professor in our new BA in Nursing online degree program. Dr. Shake shares her own experiences as a nurse and some advice for her current students.

Dr. Eileene Shake


1. How is your semester going so far? Any major surprises?

No major surprises. I enjoy teaching online. I was one of the early online education adopter at University of South Carolina and have been teaching online courses on the graduate and undergraduate levels for six years, so this is nothing new to me.

2. Can you identify one piece of technology (whether real or fictitious) or policy that would completely change the face of the nursing profession?

I would love to see a platform that engages and encourages more nursing research faculty and nursing PhD holders to teach online. Many nursing research faculty believe that nothing can replace the face-to-face classroom experience, so they’ll need a system that’s more user-friendly, interactive, and personable to entice them to teach online.

3. As with all nurses, I’m sure you encountered some interesting situations and people while in the field. What’s you “I cannot believe that just happened” story?

It seems like just yesterday, September 2011. I was a nurse educator at the University of South Carolina and the Director of the USC Center for Nursing Leadership. We had just submitted our application to the Campaign for Action to become the South Carolina One Voice One Plan Future of Nursing Action Coalition and were waiting to hear if we would be chosen. Representing the USC Center for Nursing Leadership, I would be one of the two Co-leaders for the Action Coalition if we were accepted.

I, like other nurse leaders, wanted to play a key role in implementing the transformative Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations so that we could improve both access to health care services and the quality of health care being delivered. Fast-forward to October 2014, and I can’t believe what has happened! Three years have passed and I have worked in four roles that focus on various Campaigns for Action initiatives to implement the recommendations to lead change and advance health. During this time, I also continued to work as a nurse educator, presented at conferences, and developed and taught various nursing leadership courses.

I can’t believe what I learned over the past three years! Nurses are the most trusted professionals according to national polls and they are well prepared to serve in leadership roles to transform health care. However, there is still work left to do as nurses have not been seen as leaders who can serve on hospital, state, and federal boards. Therefore, I will continue to work on initiatives to implement the IOM Future of Nursing recommendations, and support current and future nurse leaders who aspire to run for these leadership appointments.

4. Do you ever miss wearing scrubs?

I never wore scrubs much, but I certainly miss being on the front line and having personal experiences with patients.

5. What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to give to nursing students?

I encourage my students to recognize the importance of their ideas and the impact that they have of the future of the health care system in this country. Many of them don’t realize the role that they play within the nursing community. I love helping students grow and reinforce that the profession is much more than just memorizing content. When they graduate from their programs, I want them to feel ready and comfortable with sharing their ideas, regardless of where they go or what they do.

Dr. Shake also shares some fun facts about her life.

1. Favorite article of fall clothing: A sweater.

2. Best song or artist to listen to after a long day: Enya.

3. What you’re reading right now: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

4. Best BBQ – North or South Carolina: North Carolina.

5. Last time you laughed so hard you cried: Whenever I think about some of the things my grandchildren say. There are 7 of them, ages 5 to 20 years old.

6. First thing that comes to mind when you think of NYC: Plays. The theatre.

We look forward to learning more about the nursing profession through the wealth of experience and expertise you bring to CUNY SPS.

Bonnie L. Johnson is a faculty member in our new BA in Human Relations program. She is a teacher and leader in the areas of multicultural relations and social change. A graduate of NYU and Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College, Johnson has developed and taught courses in African American Women’s History, Black and Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies and Adult Education at several colleges. She has been an adjunct professor with the CUNY School of Professional Studies for more than 8 years, and will teach Foundations of Human Relations in the spring 2015 term. Professor Johnson shares her thoughts on leadership, the student experience, and more.

Professor Bonnie L. Johnson , Human Relations Program CUNY SPS
1. How is your semester going so far? Any major surprises with the launch of the BA in Human Relations program?

Absolutely. The classes are larger than I’m used to. But it’s fun; they’re all good people.

2. Which five qualities should leaders cultivate in order to thrive within today’s work environment?

1) Authenticity; 2) Do what you say you’re going to do; 3) Believe in yourself and in your followers; 4) Honesty; and 5) Have a vision.

3. You seem to have a knack for being on camera. Have you always been this poised and confident?

No. I’m actually very shy, although students would disagree with that. When I’m in front of a classroom I’m in charge and I guess that comes through on camera, too. I like what I do. I’m a teacher. That’s who I am.

4. What’s coming up for you on the professional front?

I’m getting ready to teach winter session, which, phew, I don’t know. A three-credit course in three weeks. It’s a lot to do, but I’m looking forward to it. I like a challenge.

Professor Johnson also shares some fun facts about her life.

1. Favorite article of fall clothing: A sweatshirt.

2. Best song to listen to after a long day: Anything by Aretha Franklin. I just downloaded her new album where she covers Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.

3. What you’re reading right now: My textbooks. Oh, and Fire Shut Up in My Bones. It’s brilliant.

4. Your claim to fame family recipe: Black eyed peas. With ham.

5. Last time you laughed so hard you cried: In class this semester. I was teaching Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, starting with the physiological needs—things you need in your life to survive. So I went around the classroom and asked my students what they think belongs in that category, and one of them said: “Sex. People say you can die if you go without having sex for a long period of time.”

Thanks, Professor Johnson!

We’ll go and pick up a copy of Fire Shut Up in My Bones this weekend.

Brenda Burns is a current student in our new BA in Human Relations degree program. Read about her experiences here at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.

Brenda Burns, current student in CUNY SPS BA Human Relations program

1. Why did you choose to continue your education at CUNY SPS?

I continued my education at CUNY SPS because they offered the new B.A. program in Human Relations.

2. What is the single most important professional or personal goal that you would like to achieve during your studies at CUNY SPS or after graduation?

My goal during or after graduation is to be a guidance counselor in a school or a counselor in another organization helping children.

3. How have you grown intellectually as a result of your studies at CUNY SPS?

I have definitely have grown intellectually more than I could have imagined as a result of enrolling with CUNY SPS. I’m forever grateful for all that I’ve learn in the courses that I have taken.

4. What advice would you offer to someone considering applying for admission to the program?

I’ve already given advice to a co-worker that the setting at CUNY SPS is like a family, and any help she might need someone is always available to assist her. Also, I told a co-worker that the courses given are excellent for my professional development as your personal life. She is now enrolled for her second semester and loves it. She thanks me all the time for recommending CUNY SPS.

Brenda also shared some fun facts about her life.

1. Place of residence: Far Rockaway Beach. I worked in the city for 29 years so the travel is not a problem. I love the city.

2. Favorite CUNY SPS course: I can’t say I have a favorite course because they all have something different to bring to the table. However, I can say I lean toward courses that help me understand teaching  children because I work with the DOE

3. Weirdest place you have studied: On the train. Other than that I’m usually studying at home or at work during my lunch break. I can’t study with music on it’s a distraction to me.

5. Best thing about your community or NYC: The diversity of people and all that it has to offerBroadway theaters, Times Square, restaurants, land marks such as the statue of liberty and empire state building and living across the street from the beach.

Thanks, Brenda!

We wish you continued success with your studies this semester.


I didn’t hear so much about New Year’s resolutions (nyr) this year as I did in previous years, but I must say, forward on!

Just want to remind folks that it’s okay to put last year’s nyr on rinse, repeat…after all, who says it should or will take just a year to accomplish your goals?

2014 was a year of sowing seeds, many of which are starting to reap…

As you sow your seeds this year, be sure to take advantage of some pretty great technology that can help you in your efforts to manage your life and get things done.

Tip: Use a project management tool like Trello to turn each of your nyr into a project or “board” and break them up into little tasks or “cards” you need to accomplish. It’ll be really hard not to accomplish your nyr when armed with a plan and a strategy for tracking progress!

Christina is passionate about teaching and helping others, social justice, and business ownership. She has a BA in English from George Washington University and a MA in Education from Howard University. She is currently completing a MS in Business Management and Leadership at CUNY SPS. After 10 years of teaching in public and private schools, she’s chosen to focus on helping women and minority owned small businesses succeed and give back so that her families, friends, and communities can thrive. Find Christina on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Hi, it’s Christina again!  Just to remind you, I’m a grad student in the CUNY School of Professional Studies Online Business Management Program and I’m grateful that with this education I will have the background, knowledge, and skills I need to pursue my life’s passions.

What’s yours?

Very interesting…go for it!

Now in my last article “No New Business:  Doing You” I wrote about focusing on yourself first.  My hope is that you received that message in the spirit that it was given.

Giving back (#givingtuesday) is one of the most meaningful things you can do with your life. There’s nothing like it.  And time and time again, it has been proven that regardless of one’s level of success, wealth, or fame, most people just don’t feel complete and satisfied until they participate in giving back.

But again…how do you get there?  To the place where you are giving AND you feel full?  To the place where you are so filled with love, joy, and happiness, that you can’t do anything but share?

Well, I’m no Buddha, but I want to remind you all to PERSIST, PUSH, and PERSEVERE.

A lot of us are working really hard for jobs, pushing important family, health, finances, and dreams to the side.  I’m here to say “push back!”  I learned the hard way, in my career, that unless you are running your own company, you are quite DISpensable.  Which I say to remind you to put your career in perspective when you compare it against all the other reasons why you were put here on this earth.  Respect and honor the job that allows you to provide—but make sure you are providing for something other than just getting to work the next day.  Get it?

I charge you to take the same tenacity or fever you put towards school and work and turn it upon yourself, your families, your health, your finances, and your dreams.  Live outside the 9 to 5.  Live a fulfilled life, not a settled for one.

In fact, there are some great productivity tools that can really help you piece together the many elements of your life.  Try a tool like Trello for organizing your life and getting things done.  And don’t forget, keeping a calendar can make a huge difference, too!!

Christina is passionate about teaching and helping others, social justice, and business ownership. She has a BA in English from George Washington University and a MA in Education from Howard University. She is currently completing a MS in Business Management and Leadership at CUNY SPS. After 10 years of teaching in public and private schools, she’s chosen to focus on helping women and minority owned small businesses succeed and give back so that her families, friends, and communities can thrive. 

Dear Sanaa,

When I see babies with their mom’s I think of you.
How I couldn’t wait to hug you, hold you, and tell you how much I love you.
I miss you.

Love Always,

Those were my words to my daughter I lost in March 2013.

I am the one in four (women) affected by pregnancy and infancy loss.

Losing a baby is a painstaking experience to endure. You have so much hope wrapped up in your child that to lose them you feel the air has left you.

I hesitated in writing this then I thought if I stay silent how many other moms feel as I do?

Within ourselves we are mothers but we kind of go forgotten in society. We fear our children won’t be remembered either.

Congenital Heart Defects is the most common birth defect affecting babies. Sanaa was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). To be born would have only been half the battle because she had a partial heart. It was nothing I did, or could have prevented, and like any parent I hung in there and fought long and hard for her.

Your world is forever changed. Don’t try to go through it alone. There is no expiration date on the process of grieving. Take all the time you need. When you’re ready you will get back up again. Each day you will put one foot in front of the other and the air you thought you’d lost will return to you.

Every year in October mother’s and families unite for Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Awareness month. There are walks and candle light vigils in remembrance of the babies lost. This year at the Angel of Hope statue in Eisenhower Park one of the comforting quotes I read was, “To live in the hearts of those you love is to never die.” I recorded it in my journal.

The most precious thing in life is moments. Live in them. For yourself, and for your child.

When you graduate, they graduate too. When you win at something, you win together. We may not have a choice in how life unfolds; we do have a choice in how we move forward. Where there is life there lives hope. The hope is in you.

If you have lost a child and need someone to talk to please reach out to your school advisor at the CUNY School of Professional Studies and they will help connect you with the help you need. For 24-hour help you can also reach out to the National Crisis Hotline, available free to everyone at 1-800-273-TALK. You will have someone to speak to that will connect you to the professional resources you need to safely get better. No matter what your income, or where you live, help is available. Take comfort in knowing there is someone who cares.

Additional resources

About Congenital Heart Defects

About Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and Resources

Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Awareness in the Media

Support, Stories, and Information

Gabrielle White is currently enrolled at the CUNY School of Professional Studies as a Communication and Media major. She pairs her undergraduate studies with her background in medical science while actively working within the community and nonprofit organizations. An advocate for health and education, she aims to help others live their best life today. If she is not doing a run for a cause, she is certainly to be found around the city and beyond advocating for one.

The following post was submitted by Nerisusan Rosario, a current student in our online Bachelor’s Degree in Health Information Management (B.S.):

On October 31st CUNY held its 10th annual Women Leadership Conference forum emphasizing the importance of empowering, supporting and mentoring young professional women. The overall theme at the forum was about finding your professional passion. It was great to be in a room of women that embrace the practice of helping other women seek their potential growth professionally. They all expressed how important it is to build relationships with like-minded women who share similar goals, vision, and passion and are essentially a support system when climbing up the ladder.

Morning Panel: New York City Government (Council members)

The panelists were women that hold public civic positions in the New York City government and were fully engaged in their perspective committees and the needs of their constituents in their district. What impressed me was that their passion derived from a personal level and they carry it through in the work that they do. For instance Councilwoman Inez Barron is passionate about eradicating all ‘ism’s’ such as sexism, racism, and classism. Her colleague Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal strongly believes that the budget is a direct reflection of the priorities of the city and she works towards addressing that vigorously on her committee. Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson is dedicated to improving public safety and ensuring that education equality is never neglected. Finally, Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, the newest member, radiated a passion for the arts and expressed that it is possible to align your passion and still serve her community.

Afternoon Panel: “What is your passion”

The panelists were  CUNY Trustees Valerie Lancaster Beal and Rita DiMartino, a corporate Associate Vice Chancellor Andrea Shapiro Davis and Interim Vice Chancellor and University Provost  Julia Wrigley. The discussion revolved around their concept of what embodies a leader, the balancing act of family with career life, and sharing with us their own professional passion. Every single one of these women expressed a form of sacrifice in order to pursue their dreams and due to their own experience they shared the following tips:

  1. Be aware that we live in a global society (everything is accessible electronically)
  2. Maintain a grade point average of 3.0 (be mindful it’s a competitive market)
  3. Aside from work experience, internships and volunteer work are essential
  4. Monitor Facebook/Instagram/Twitter (employers do check social media and your branding)
  5. Establish a relationship with a professional that can in turn become your mentor
  6. You can supplement what you like by incorporating portions of your passion in your career
  7. Self Promote!!! Know your own values and extend yourself

I was left with the impression that many of the women in each panel are individuals that strive for personal improvement and are not afraid to take the risk necessary to be successful. All the women featured in the CUNY Women’s Leadership Conference possessed a sense of humor, charisma, and confidence which energized the audience to see the next 10 years as a strong opportunity to see women in position of power. It may appear as a challenge and perhaps even a bit intimidating, however one of my favorite quotes that came from Councilwoman Cumbo was a song lycric from Lauren Hill, “Everyday is another day to get it right.”

As a student currently pursuing my Master’s Degree, I get a lot of the same questions over and over again, from friends, from family, and from people I’ve just met.  “Are you in school?”, “Where are you going to school?” and finally, “What are you studying?” My response usually provokes something along the lines of “What’s that?  Is that, like, working with disabled people?”

With adults, I usually tell them that it’s examining disability from a sociological viewpoint and leave it at that.  With kids and teens, I explain that it’s looking at how disabled people are treated in society.  I’m pretty sure most people have never even thought about disabled people or how we’re treated.  There’s a lot of conversation around sexism and racism in today’s age, even heterosexism (more often called homophobia), but not so much around ableism.

I’ve known since I was in high school, ever since I discovered that disability studies was a field of study, that I wanted to do disability studies for the rest of my life.  Unfortunately, since the Bachelor’s program in Disability Studies at CUNY didn’t exist yet, I was forced to major in what I thought was the closest thing to it – special education.  However, I didn’t realize that special education unfortunately had no place for someone who was actually disabled.  After a lot of discrimination, I left college with no teaching certification, disappointed and disillusioned, and more ready for disability studies than ever.

As I discovered during my time in college, most of the dialogue about disability is dominated by parents, teachers, caregivers, and other people in auxiliary positions.  Disability studies changes all that.  Disability studies as a whole confronts the prejudice of those fields (like special education) head on.  In disability studies, disability is not a problem, a diagnosis, or a “special need.”  It is a complex social phenomenon, intersecting with the odd individualism of our bodies.  That’s why disability studies is so important.  It gives disabled people our own voices and own agency – something that is sorely lacking in other discussions of disability.

Moreover, on a personal level, I have a passion for school now that I didn’t before.  Even when I’m tired, or sick, or just don’t feel like dragging myself to class, once I sit down in that classroom and listen to my professor and classmates, I feel exhilarated.  You would think a 2 ½ hour class would pass achingly slowly, but it usually zooms by, because I’m interested in the material.  I feel welcomed at CUNY SPS.  I’m a part of a community, something I never really felt during my undergraduate studies.  Most of all, I love listening to my classmates’ stories – because in this field, everyone has a story to tell.

Everyone has a story, and I bet you do too.  With one in five Americans identifying as having a disability, we are all closer to disability than we think.  I shared mine, now it’s your turn.  What’s your story?  Share with me in the comments!

Cara Liebowitz is a disabled activist and blogger currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies at CUNY SPS. She serves on the board of DREAM (Disability Rights, Education, Activism and Mentoring), an organization aimed at expanding opportunities for higher education students with disabilities. Cara was also one of the founding members of the I Am Norm Campaign, a national campaign promoting inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. You can read her blog at www.thatcrazycrippledchick.blogspot.com.

What does it mean to be successful? What does success mean to you? As I prepared over the summer, for what will be my final semester towards my BA, I reflected a lot on what success meant to me. After all the effort it took to get this far, how will I use what I have been given? What is my next step?

Earlier in the summer, as I listened to the radio on my way home from work, I heard a playback of an interview of a well known American jazz musician, Charlie Haden. Haden described in his interview what a remarkable life and career he enjoyed. Although his accomplishments were many, what really stood out to me wasn’t so much what he did, it was why he did what he did, the motives behind his work.

Like any young professional, Haden struggled to make ends meet in the beginning of his career. Feeling guilty because he was not able to provide for his family, he decided to start recording commercial music. Although he was still working at creating music, creating commercial music was not something he believed in. In his own words, he said: “It isn’t what I want to do. I have a very clear picture of what I want to do and what I feel is important as far as my contribution or my appreciation and respect for this life that we’re living, and to try and make it better. I can’t feel that I’m making it better playing commercial music, and I never could and never will.” Listen to the full interview here.

What does this comment have to do with success? Well, Haden focused on producing work that he believed in and could feel proud of. It had real substance.  The feeling behind his work was what really resounded with me. It made me ask, why do I do what I do? What is really important to me? As I begin to take my first steps in my chosen career, how will I use my gifts and abilities? What will my contribution to society be? How will I be remembered one day?

Ultimately, I think I will have achieved success if I am able to produce work that I can stand behind of proudly. My journey up until this point has been a long and winding road. I feel like I scaled a huge mountain and am now at the top, gazing at the horizon. Looking ahead, beyond graduation, I want to strive to work hard at things that I believe in. I’m not sure where this journey will end, but I can’t wait to get started!

Stephanie Perez is in her final year at CUNY SPS, majoring in Sociology. When she is not busy joining her four year old son on his daily adventures, she likes to spend her time reading, cooking, and dancing to her favorite music. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in human rights law and advocacy.

Dating With Disabilities by Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini originally appeared on the YAI Network’s blog Voice.

At the end of my last blog, which was about Seeing Beyond Disability, I mentioned a social connection of mine that might progress. Since that post, my relationship has done just that, and I have spent some time thinking about dating and disability.

Online dating has made it easier for people in general to meet each other. However, living in this day and age of online connections, a double-edge sword presents itself. Every day — the ability to be more socially connected or to be more lonely.

Someone can be anyone online—they can be true representations of who they are in person, or they can become a digitalized recreation into some “ideal” image of themselves. As such, they can find and connect with a vast audience that is extremely diverse. Nowadays, people could meet each other in ways not possible a decade ago and in some instances, the internet can be the only way for certain people to meet.

Online connection however doesn’t always meet our social needs or ward off loneliness. Loneliness can feel like one of the worst experiences in life, and hearing well-meaning sayings such as, “You must learn to love yourself before anyone else can,” can only dull the often uncontrollable ache, especially if you hear it time and time again. Learning to love oneself is a lifelong journey after all.

Of course, there can always be a combination of social engagement and loneliness at the same time, especially for people with disabilities, who are often socially marginalized from their peers who don’t have disabilities, or even from each other. There may be more social inclusion and acceptance through online connection today, but isolation, suspicion of and stigmatization against people with disabilities is still a problem throughout society.

Meeting Amber

I met my partner, Amber, through an online dating/social networking site. Soon after we connected, I proceeded to totally ignore her for a week when I went on a meditation retreat. You know, just how all the dating guide books tell you a great relationship should start!

Given that it is the start of a relationship, the “honeymoon phase” as it’s often called, can be very passionate and exciting—with a natural amount of uncertainty. There are a lot of hopes, fears and expectations during this “discovery stage” that may or may not come true.

At the beginning of a new relationship there is hope that the other person will accept, understand, like, and maybe even love us; the hope that they will turn out to be who we want them to be in terms of sharing our values, sense of humor, ways to spend time, etc. There are fears that neither of us will live up to these hopes. There is the expectation that we’ll give each other a fair shot at finding out if we’re a good match. This is a time of exploring our differences and the things we share in common. How does disability impact this?

When one partner has a disability and the other does not, which is the case for Amber and me, things can get very interesting: especially considering that we will probably have to contend with, at one point or another, not only what we are learning and feeling about each other; but with opinions and questions from others that will make us cringe.

Questions about my voice will undoubtedly come up and some people will stare. Although it hasn’t happened yet, friends might ask Amber why she’s with me because in their opinion, she could do so much better. After all, why would anyone want to settle for “less” than they deserve?

While this may be a common experience for anyone becoming a new couple who endures criticism of their partner from friends and family, it can be magnified for people with disabilities, who are often judged on things besides their character, values and other traits that might make them good partners. Disability is an easy target as the deciding factor of the potential success or failure of a relationship, most often failure.

These things may or may not happen, but I have faith that if two people have inner strength, level heads about them and good communication between them, then love has a chance to endure.

Cary and Melissa 

Cary and Melissa are a testament to the idea of steadfast dedication in a relationship. They have been together for two years, and from them I have learned that each phase of a relationship has its ups and downs.

Several years ago, I met Cary at American University in Washington DC while taking a music course. We met in class when the teacher pointed us out to each other and the fact that we both had Cerebral Palsy—in front of the entire class. While that introduction was an unsavory experience, it sparked a lifelong friendship.

He and I shared many things in common besides our Cerebral Palsy, chief among them our fondness for music—and our dating woes. We always seemed to get led on by women, only to get our hopes dashed for a genuine connection. I know that this type of “leading on” or “being played” happens to people without disabilities as well and that guys do it to women, too. People with disabilities, however, are often more easily dismissed. I talked to a woman on the phone that I had met online through a dating site and the following day I asked her through a text message if my voice was what she had expected; she replied: “I expected your voice to be as handsome as you are.” I am still trying to figure out if that is a compliment or not.

Cary had a number of short relationships that ended in frustration and heartbreak before he met Melissa, who had gone through similar experiences. Melissa did not have a disability, but like Cary, longed for a real and meaningful connection. They met online through a dating site and started talking. Cary mentioned on his profile that he had Cerebral Palsy and Melissa, who had no idea what that was, looked it up. She was curious about him, having been attracted to his sense of humor, and decided to take a chance by meeting him in person. That was over two years ago.

I had lunch with Cary and Melissa the other day and, after sharing their story, Cary said to me, “I think people with disabilities often have idealistic expectations of what it means to be in a relationship and what I have learned is that being in a relationship is a lot of hard work.” Melissa smiled and nodded in agreement.

Things are not always easy for Cary and Melissa. Sometimes when they are out, they experience stigma and downright discrimination. One time at a bar, a man got up from his seat to go to the bathroom and when he returned to find Cary in his seat, he said to the friend he was with, “I can’t believe you gave my seat to a cripple!”

This made both Melissa and Cary understandably angry and reminded them that ignorance and fear of difference unfortunately persist.

The Disability Factor

The dating dilemma that many people with disabilities find themselves in, more often than not, is that they are not given a chance to date. People without disabilities are simply not open to it. As one of my cousins pointed out to me the other night, “When people think about dating and the dating culture, they don’t really think about people with disabilities, and if they do, it is often how to exclude them from dating. The thought of them [people with disabilities] dating, makes us [people without disabilities] uncomfortable.” While this is not always the case, it is common enough to mention.

In some ways I understand the notion behind the fear of dating someone with a disability. There’s the common misconception that the partner without a disability will end up being a caregiver more than an equal partner, and the view that disability is a weakness rather than a strength. A former partner of mine said that she thought that women were probably intimidated by my disability and what it implied about my needs as a partner, and that they did not know how to get past their fearful reaction.

Having a disability should not be a deterrent to emotional connection, especially in the romantic sense. A person with a disability might want to date someone who also has a disability, for reasons such as mutual attraction and shared understanding. Or they might want to date someone who does not have a disability for the same or other reasons.

The common assumption that two people should date because they both have disabilities, or that they are dating because they both have disabilities, is very annoying. It’s like assuming that two people who are tall, for example, should date or are dating because they are tall. A person with a disability should have the freedom to date whomever they chose—and experience the same risks of heartbreak and love and everything in between—just like everyone else.

To be desired and to feel loved is one of the cornerstones of what it means to be human, and it should be available to everyone, regardless of difference, be it an accent, walking style, learning style or something else. Humans have had this very unhealthy obsession with sameness for far too long, and any difference has been met with fear and has been demonized as a result.

Yes, to be in a relationship with someone with a disability requires taking a chance and giving that person a chance. But the same is true in regards to any relationship. Dating someone with a disability may or may not have more, or maybe different challenges, but that does not make the relationship or the partner any less worthy of taking a risk and trying to make a meaningful connection.

It takes strong people to look beyond disability, and to have the emotional fortitude to look within to see that we all have talents, limitations and the ability to offer love.

Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini is a graduate student at CUNY School of Professional Studies in its Disability Studies program and a disability advocate. He is also an intern with YAI Network where he regularly contributes to their blog Voice. Born in New York City, he’s lived all over the country. When not in New York, Keith resides in Tucson, Arizona, where he’s getting a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Arizona.


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