Q&A: Regina Baker, community volunteer

Ten years ago, Regina was diagnosed with a physical disability. She’s also the mother of a son who experiences a developmental disability. Regina says that having to navigate through life with a disability has challenged her to be her own best advocate.

When her church organized an emergency preparedness training that aimed to include people with disabilities, Regina was eager to help. She reached out to the disability community to invite community members to participate.

photo of Regina Baker and her son smiling at the camera

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

I’ve lived in Portland for two years. My family and I moved here from Nevada, where we lived for 11 years.  We relocated looking for more diversity, and found that here.

I’m a woman of faith and it was very important to become grounded with a place of worship right away. We are blessed to have found our church. First Church of the Apostolic Faith has been vital in helping my family establish a foundation here and giving us a community network.

We can’t say we love our community, and forget to reach out to people who may be under-served or overlooked. People also attach a stigma to people who they perceive are unimportant.

Q: Why was it important to you to make sure that people with disabilities were included in this training? 

It was important that the elderly, children, and people with disabilities are just as aware and equipped for a disaster as everyone else. In fact, I have found that these groups may be impacted the most in the event a disaster took place.

Having more compassion in life is a must for all of us.

We can’t say we love our community, and forget to reach out to people who may be under-served or overlooked. People also attach a stigma to people who they perceive are unimportant.

We all matter. Making sure we’re reaching out to those with disabilities in the community is important.

Regina's son at a disaster preparedness training

Q: How did this training try to include people with disabilities?

It offered tips for people who use wheelchairs or have developmental disabilities on how to survive if FEMA is slow to respond. The training had a more hands on approach for people who are visual learners.

A lot of people, like my son, learn differently. Instead of just having a list of emergency items everyone should have on hand, the training had the actual items there.

My son may attend a FEMA training for young people next year. We are very excited about this opportunity.

Members of my church have family members who are disabled. The training created a sense of togetherness.

It’s important to know who your neighbors are and if your neighbors have any disabilities, because they’ll be vulnerable in the event a natural disaster happened. It’s important to think ahead and be prepared.

Q: How has your own experience of having a physical disability changed the way you look at the world?

I’ve learned that you don’t have to have a visible disability to have a disability. People think if you appear well and can speak well, all must be well with you. That’s not always the case.

I’ve learned there’s a stigma attached to disability and seen how people with disabilities can be discriminated against.

It’s taught me you have to raise your voice and fight to be heard.  It’s encouraged me to not be quiet.

You never know who you can reach and who you can affect. It can change someone’s life.

Not everyone is born with a disability. Some people can acquire a disability through an accident. It will change your life and the lives of those who are around you.  My diagnosis has given me insights into some of the daily challenges that our elders can face.

Having more compassion in life is a must for all of us.

 

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