Experiencing Wisconsin differently (Transcript)
Produced by Lilly Eggert and Cara Lombardo
Meet Kramer Endres, an actuarial science major and Acheh Fonkem, a biology major. Both are vice presidents of Advocates for Diverse Abilities, a student organization that seeks to bring awareness to disabilities.
Kramer was born with cerebral palsy and Acheh has significant hearing loss. They discuss their experiences on campus—and the misconceptions they’d like to dismantle.
Kramer Endres: I’m Kramer Endres, I’m from Lodi, Wisconsin. I actually lived right on Lake Wisconsin, so not too far away.
Acheh Fonkem: I’m Achech Fonkem. I’m a junior. I’m studying biology right now at UW-Madison. I’m from Appleton, Wisconsin, about two hours away from here.
Q: How do you explain your disability to people?
AF: Usually I don’t have to explain it since it’s just a simple topic of having a hearing loss. I can’t hear you very well.
KE: I guess when talking about cerebral palsy, I usually start out by saying that it happens right around the time of birth. It can be before birth, right after birth or in the process of it. It is a type
of brain injury, but it affects the motor areas of it, so that affects more the outside body.
Q: Do you wish that more people asked about cerebral palsy?
KE: In the business school, I don’t get it a whole lot. Which is kind of a good and a bad thing, because a lot of times you’re here and you don’t really think—I don’t usually think that I have a disability.
Q: What are the challenges and advantages of being independent?
KE: Being independent is good. The only thing is, it takes a lot of energy out of you. You know, like getting ready in the morning, (for) most people, it just kind of wakes them up. For me, it really wakes me up because it’s almost like half a workout.
I like driving my chair, it’s fun. It’s kind of a little stress relief, too. I usually just listen to music and just kind of go. I’ve had friends say they’ve said “Hi” to me and I don’t really hear them, I just keep going.
Q: What is a misconception you see?
AF: I think the biggest thing is, for me, that I want to let people know is that disability is such a social construct. It’s just that the definition of normal is not normal. It’s just time to get rid of that.
KE: I think one perception that kind of still is out there is that people offer too much sometimes, or they are like, “Oh, he’s in a wheelchair, so I’m going to offer this or help him out more.” They’re more noticeable about it, rather than just still being aware and helping if I’m struggling on something. I’ll usually ask if I need help.
Q: What experiences frustrate you?
AF: Having to repeat, “Can you please speak up louder?” frustrates me. After I’ve said it so many times in the past hour (having to say), “No, I cannot hear you.” They forget to keep their voices up. Or there’s another experience (where) someone tells a joke and I miss it. I ask, “Can you repeat it?” and they go “Nevermind.”
KE: When it comes to the bathroom aspect, a lot of times if they have four stalls—the big handicapped stall and three regular ones—people tend to take the big stall right away, just because it’s a bigger stall.
Q: Where did you get your independent outlook?
KE: I think definitely my parents had a big role in that. They’ve always really pushed me to be independent, but I’ve also just had that innate nature to do it.
Q: What are your future plans?
AF: I would like to be a forensic scientist, doctor, researcher and maybe a spy. The spy is not likely, but we’ll see.