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Advocate Profile: Rachael Schlee

Rachael is handing from a trapeze by her ankles, hands at her side, and chin tucked under like a bad A$$!!

D: What is your favorite way to pass time? R: CIRCUS EVERY DAMN DAY. (see picture where I am rocking my first ever toe hang!)

D: What is something people generally don’t know about you? \ R: You need someone to untie that impossibly tight knot? I'm your girl.

D: Who is Rachael? R: I think my favorite coffee mug says it best: AQUARIUS: feisty & driven.

D: What gets your fired up about the disability movement? R: I get fired up when people call me 'inspiring.' For me, that word is a punch in the gut. I HATE that word, and here's why: DISCLAIMER: I know others in the limb difference community might feel differently and that's awesome. Be an inspiration in whatever way you choose and I will back you up 100%. I am speaking for myself and only myself here. Okay. Good. Now that we understand each other please read on... When people call me inspiring, they are referring to the fact that I am doing what everyone else is doing, only with a limb difference, i.e. with most of my fingers missing. This somehow makes me an inspiration, and often becomes the main reason I am an inspiration. Um. What? That's ridiculous! Please, just stop before your foot goes any further into your own mouth. Being called 'inspiring' because I have a limb difference drives. me. INSANE. Call me inspiring because I'm a good person. Call me inspiring because I show up every day. Call me inspiring because I don't give up. Do NOT call me inspiring because my hands look different than yours. I am so much more than my missing fingers.

D: What is your advocacy platform? R: I make a point at the beginning of the school year to show my students my hands and very matter-of-factly explain what happened to them. I explain what Amniotic Band Syndrome is, and show them how it affected my hands. Then I let them ask whatever questions they have and I answer those questions truthfully (How do you pick your nose? is the most common, lol). I let them know that they can talk to me about my hands and ask questions a n y t i m e they come up. For me, the key to disarming the stigma around disability is through education. Teaching my students the facts helps them to see that my disability only makes me different on the outside. On the inside, we're all human.

D: What barriers or challenges do you face in this movement? (or in life) R: Most people take awhile to notice my hands, and when they do... "No. I don't need help lifting that, or opening that other thing... Yeah. I can move that too. It's fine. I really can do it on my own!" Sigh...Seriously, people. If I want help, I'll ask for it.

D: What do you want those who do not identify with disability to know? R: Hi. I am a human, just like you. Treat me as such.

D: When people look at you/up to you, what do you hope they see? R: I hope that they see someone who is kind, confident, motivated, and relatable.

D: What are your next steps? R: I'll be performing in my 9th aerial student showcase with Xelias Aerial Arts in May in Minneapolis. It's a great time if you're in the area and are looking for something rad to do. Look 'em up!

D: How do we follow you?! Instagram @rachiequeen Facebook: Rachael Schlee Because of my job as a middle school teacher, my social media accounts are air tight (no 6th grader you may not follow me, it's cute though how often you try). If you want to follow me, shoot me a message and let me know who you are!

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