Episode 1 Transcript:
Hi, I'm Sarah Todd Hammer, and this is Positively Opposite, the podcast where you'll discover through the experience and knowledge of myself and others that disability is not always a negative thing, but, in fact, it can be quite the opposite.
Hi, everyone, and welcome to the very first episode of the Positively Opposite podcast! I'm so excited to be starting a podcast. This is going to be so much fun. I have so much to share with you all, and I know you will all learn a lot.
In this episode, I'm just going to be introducing myself to you, sharing my disability story with you, and explaining the significance of the name of this podcast and why I feel that the message I'm going to be spreading through this podcast is so important.
So, my name is Sarah Todd Hammer. I go by “Sarah Todd” as a double name, so you can refer to me as “Sarah Todd.” My name comes from a family name, so that's why I'm Sarah Todd. I'm from Atlanta, Georgia. I'm 19 years old, and this August I will be starting my second year at Davidson College in North Carolina, where I will be pursuing a Disability Studies major.
I have been disabled since I was eight years old, so for 11 years now. I originally was paralyzed from the neck down. I couldn't move even a single toe. But I have been fortunate enough to recover quite a lot. I'm able to walk, but I have partial paralysis in my arms and hands, so I have a very spotty paralysis pattern. I can't move my left hand, but I can move my right hand (although my right hand is extremely weak). I can't move certain areas of my arms and shoulders, so it's difficult for me to complete daily tasks. I have been diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis or AFM, which is caused by a virus attacking the spinal cord, and my spinal cord was damaged from C2 to T1, which is a very large section of the spinal cord.
Throughout my disability journey these past 11 years, I definitely have had a lot of challenges, but I've also had a lot of positive experiences. I've become quite interested in disability activism, and I've actually written and published three books about my disability journey. I also write articles for news publications; I've been featured in many documentaries and other podcasts; I speak at schools and I've spoken at symposia and other events, and disability activism is just a really big part of my life. It's something I'm very passionate about and really believe strongly in. I really love raising awareness for the disability community and think it's so necessary and important, and that is why I'm choosing to major in Disability Studies at college: so that I can dedicate my career to disability activism. Because there's just so many things when it comes to disability that I really care about and greatly believe in. So I want to dedicate my career and the rest of my life to disability activism.
Since becoming disabled, I definitely did struggle at first. It was difficult to adjust to being disabled after I lived eight years of my life without a disability, but I did eventually adjust after a couple of years. And I've actually grown to really love my disability and be thankful for all of the positive aspects of my disability. And I realized that there are so many positive aspects of disability, and society tends to focus on the negative aspects much more. And this is why I chose to name my podcast Positively Opposite, because the positive aspects of disability are the opposite of what people think of when we discuss disability.
So as I said, I did struggle initially a lot with my disability and accepting myself as disabled. And I still do struggle every day in terms of being independent, because my disability limits what I can do on my own and without help. But I have really been able to accept my identity as a disabled person and come to love that part of myself. So I think that it's important that we acknowledge the challenges that disability can bring but also focus on the positive aspects. In addition to the challenges, I personally feel that my disability has given me much more than it has taken away from me. I have met so many amazing friends and connected with so many wonderful people because of my disability, and I've also gained increased knowledge, wisdom, and insight because of my disability. I am aware of so many things that I don't think I would be aware of if I weren't disabled. I think about things that I wouldn't think about if it weren't for my disability, for example, the importance of having captions on videos so that they are accessible to everyone. I also have had so many amazing opportunities because of my disability. I've gotten to model in New York Fashion Week. I modeled adaptive clothing, which is clothing that is made for disabled people. It has cool features that make it more accessible, such as magnets instead of buttons and zippers. And I modeled that clothing in a show that featured all disabled models during New York Fashion Week. And that was so incredible and so fun and a really important event. I also got to meet my favorite band, One Direction, for my Make-A-Wish trip in 2014, and that was so incredible. I think about that literally every day of my life because it was such an amazing experience. And these are just two examples of some amazing opportunities I've had because of my disability that I wouldn't have had without it. And there are so many more.
So to highlight these positive aspects of disability, I'll be showcasing fabulous friends I've made, people I've met, and the knowledge, wisdom, and insight I've gained throughout my disability journey. Each episode, I'll be interviewing a different guest. These guests will include people I've connected with on social media, some of my greatest friends, and people who've been there for me during the past 11 years of my disability journey. I'm so excited for the conversations that I will be having with my guests, and you all should be as well! Each episode will offer a great dose of positivity and encouragement, which is so necessary. Everyone can use a great dose of just positive energy and positive mindset and attitude. It's so important. So I'm really looking forward to having these conversations and to having you all listen to these conversations.
So be on the lookout for the first interview that I will be conducting on the Positively Opposite podcast. I will be having my wonderful best friend Jen Starzec as my first guest. So be on the lookout for that episode. I will be posting two episodes a month, so be on the lookout for my interview with Jen coming very soon.
Thank you so much for tuning in to this week's episode of Positively Opposite. If you'd like to connect with me, visit my website, sarahtoddhammer.com. Transcripts of each episode will be available at that website. Also, be sure to follow the Positively Opposite Instagram for all the latest updates and special content regarding the podcast. I hope you'll join me and my amazing first guest, Jen Starzec, at the next episode!