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Advocate Profile - Elizabeth Shick

Photo of Elizabeth smiling wide in her lab, dressed in her lab gear!
Advocate: Elizabeth Shick

D: What is your favorite way to pass time? E: My favorite ways to pass time are by taking pictures of nature, reading, and baking.

D: What is something people generally don’t know about you? E: I can wiggle my ears together and separately.

D: Who is Elizabeth Sick

E: My name is Elizabeth and I am a microbiologist. I love being in the lab and working with infectious agents. The fact that something so small can be so lethal is fascinating to me and I hope to one day help develop a treatment or cure for an infectious disease. I also happen to have a left radial clubbed hand and no left thumb. In addition I have congenital heart disease because I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, five holes in my heart, and a tight mitral valve; I had open heart surgery at 7 months old.

D: What gets your fired up about the disability movement? E: There are so many things that ignite my passions regarding the disability movement. One thing is how people with disabilities are often viewed in society as less than or incapable. It is often automatically assumed that we need help or unable to accomplish a task. Another are the invisible disabilities that are often brushed off by society. You cannot see the scars from when my chest was sawed open, but that does not mean they are not there. I have a handicapped placard because I am unable to walk long distances in the heat due to my heart, but I often get dirty looks when I use it because I don't "look" disabled. Disabilities aren't always visible, but that does not mean they are any less valid than a disability that you can see.

D: What is your advocacy platform? E: My advocacy platform is bringing awareness to congenital heart disease and limb differences in the hopes of making disabilities less scary and more accepted by society.

D: What barriers or challenges do you face in this movement? E: I have faced many barriers and challenges, particularly in the work place. I found out that after an interview someone commented "did you see her hand, do you think she can even do her job?!" I did not get the position. I have been asked if I can dress myself because part of another job was putting on scrubs. I am asked on a regular basis if I need help carrying items that weigh no more than a loaf of bread. I feel as though I have to be better than my colleagues simply to prove I am on the same level as them because of my disability.

D: What do you want those who do not identify with disability to know? E: I want those who do not identify with a disability to know that disability is not a dirty word. It is something that you should take pride in because not many people have the privilege of having a disability. Yes, I said privilege. Having a disability allows you a unique perspective on the world and makes you a more empathetic person. It also allows you the opportunity to meet some kick ass people you may not have connected with otherwise!

D: What areas are you still growing/hope to grow? Personally? Professionally? E: I have two main areas that I am still hoping to grow in. First, I want to gain more confidence in public speaking and one day do it professionally. Second, I would also like to become a better photographer and branch out into doing portraits of people and animals.

D: Who was the person/role model who inspired you to look into disability advocacy? Why/how did they inspire you? E: The person that inspired me to look into disability advocacy was Nicole Kelly because of her vulnerability in competing for Miss America. She has continued to fight for disability rights and has taught me about micro-aggressions and standing up for myself in the work place. She has taught me that asking for accommodations is a right and something I should not feel bad asking for or accepting.

D: When people look at you/up to you, what do you hope they see? E: When people look up to me I hope they see someone with a disability that has worked hard to have a respected scientific career. I hope they see someone who is fierce, passionate, and a survivor that sets a good example for younger people. I want to be the person I needed when I was younger.

D: What are your next steps? E: I want to start writing my autobiography using vignettes and funny anecdotes.

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