County, city leaders take on disability for the day

WHITE CO., Ind. (WLFI) – Meet Melissa Draper. For nearly 40 years, she has never been able to walk “normal.”

“I have cerebral palsy, and I’ve had it since I was born,” said Draper. “So, I’ve had it for almost 38 years.”

She describes each day as a challenge.

“It takes me about an hour to get dressed everyday. It just takes a lot out of me, because I have to walk and use my crutches every time,” Draper said.

Wednesday, White County and Monticello city leaders were invited to spend “a day in the life of” a person with a disability for the first annual “Mile in My Shoes” event. Some, like Monticello Mayor Ken Houston and Parks Superintendent Mitchelle Billue, chose to spend their day in a wheelchair.

“I want to see how accessible, or how welcoming, our parks and city facilities are to the handicapped,” said Billue.

“They go through this every single day,” said Houston. “For me, I’m going to do this for a few hours and already I’ve had frustrations.”

Others, like White County Treasurer Jill Guingrich, chose to wear an arm brace and work the whole day with only one arm.

“I thought it was important, because I think sometimes we all take for granted all of our abilities,” Guingrich said.

But even though the day was filled with challenges and frustrations, those who participated said they now know what it’s like to live with a disability and hope to raise awareness to others.

“I think it gives you little more sympathy and empathy for people who do have more challenges than us,” said Guingrich. “We think of the little things, but theirs are way more.”

“I think people just go on with their own lives, so they don’t think that other people have a lot of struggles,” said Billue.

The event was organized by the Monticello Mayor’s Advisory Council for the Americans with Disabilities Act. There was a total of nine participants, including White County Sheriff Pat Shafer.

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