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By Maebelle Mathew

Freshman Biochemistry Major

Minor in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Yesterday, February 16, Ellen Perry, a disability activist who works to make independent living achievable in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area and beyond, gave a talk on her life and work as a disability activist. She spoke of the obstacles that she has faced and the goals she has achieved.

Ellen’s story begins when she ventured into the world on her own, doing what she could to remain self-reliant despite having an impairment. The ARC, an organization for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, helped her find herself—through the many seminars and classes offered by the program, she learned to be assertive. From that point forward, Ellen made use of her assertiveness to meet new people, live independently, and most importantly, fight for her rights and for the rights of all disabled people. Her work has brought many changes to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, such as increased transportation for the disabled and the incorporation of tactile paving (to help the blind navigate after the addition of curb cuts). Her words provide inspiration and hope to all those with a disability struggling to maintain a self-reliant life.

About Ms. Ellen Perry

Ellen was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that permanently affects body movement and muscle control. However, despite the obstacles that she faced with her physical disability, by the age of 22, Ellen was able to move out of her childhood home and into her own house in Chapel Hill. Ellen discovered there was much room for improvement for accessibility for people with disabilities. After speaking to the mayor, she joined the Transportation Advisory Board in Carrboro. Since then, she has brought about many changes to the entire county, has led state-level campaigns, and has been involved in national projects.

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