Mr. Rogers had a life-altering impact on me.
I’m a 38-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. I’m not necessarily what most people associate with CP. I can walk and participated in mainstream public schooling as a child, but having a disability definitely played a formative role in shaping my life and the person I am.
My family made sure I had the best health care they could find, but never talked to me, or asked me about being disabled. I obviously knew I was different from my peers, but I only knew I had CP from listening to doctors speak with my mother.
I was (and still am) a huge fan of PBS, and watched Mister Rogers every day. I was probably 5 or 6 when I saw Jeff Erlanger on the show, and vividly remember thinking “ok, I’m not exactly like this kid, but this is what I am”.
I’m so thankful to Mister Rogers for confirming something so fundamental about myself and that there was nothing wrong with being like Jeff and I. I adamantly believe that my life could have taken a much darker turn without that experience. I still take a second to thank Mister R. every time I advocate, educate, speak or write about disability issues, and every time I remember to stop and realize how lucky I am to be living as a whole, happy and complete person with the right to acknowledge disability as a part of what makes me who I am.