UM: What is your name?
Charisse: My name is Charisse Hogan.
UM: How old are you?
Charisse: I am 20 years old.
UM: Where are you from? (State only)
Charisse: I’m from Alabama.
UM: What type of disability do you have?
Charisse: I was born with Cerebral Palsy, Low Tone and Ataxia.
UM: When were you diagnosed/told? How did you handle knowing?
Charisse: I was diagnosed at age 2. My doctor told my parents I would be in a wheelchair all my life. My parents at first were worried about my diagnosis but kept hope for me. After tons of therapy and hard work I entered kindergarten walking with leg braces and a walker. At age 7 I moved onto forearm crutches then at age 9 I took my first steps on my own. Now I walk with a limp and wear a leg brace on my left leg.
UM: Was depression a problem? If so, how’d you overcome it?
Charisse: As a child and a young teen I would get upset a lot due to the bullying and misunderstanding I went through for years. I told my parents about the bullying and I would get very stressed out when people misunderstood my disability. When I got older I began to feel there was a reason why God made me this way. I struggled a lot finding this reason. I now believe I was made this way to help spread more disability awareness and understanding, help others who are struggling, give hope to others, inspire others to always be their selves, and to remind everyone that no matter who you are everyone is unique and beautiful.
UM: What limitations does your disability place on you?
Charisse: I don’t like to think of my disability giving me limits. I may have a disability but my disability doesn’t have me. It takes me longer to do things and I sometimes have to find my own unique way to do things.
UM: How did your peers and family handle your disability?
Charisse: I was the first child with a physical disability to enter my elementary school. In the second grade my classmates began pointing out my differences and began bullying me. Some children wouldn’t let me play with them because I was different. Some children wouldn’t even come near me because they thought they could catch my disability. I was push down, made fun of, mocked, and laughed at during school. In middle school and high school a lot students believed my disability affected me mentally too, not just physically. I struggled a lot with being accepted and making friends. I had a few good friends growing up that saw past my disability and I’m very grateful I had those friends. I’m also very thankful for the love and support from the teachers and staff at my school. My family never treated me any different than my siblings. My family didn’t see me as the little girl in a walker and leg braces, my family saw me as the little girl who could do anything she sets her mind to and can be anything she dreams to be. My family always focuses on my abilities, not my disabilities. My family has helped me through a lot.
UM: How has your disability affected daily activities?
Charisse: Some daily activities struggles I face due to my disability is doing my own makeup, doing my hair, sometimes I have issues with eating and drinking, getting tired, body pain, and balance issues. I do my own makeup and hair in my own unique ways and it takes me a long time to do because of my uncontrollable sudden shakes and jerks. If my family is in a hurry my mom will help me with my hair and makeup. I drink out of cups with lids and straws. I can’t drink out of normal cups because I will spill. I have a lot of my food cut up to make it easier for me to chew and swallow. Sometimes my disability can cause me to throw food but my dog, Bailey, loves when that happens! I sometimes randomly lose balance and fall but I always get right back up! I do get tired faster than others and take breaks from walking. With the way my disability causes me to walk and move I do get back, knee, and wrist pain. I do special exercises every day to help with the pain.
UM: Are you employed? If so, how does your disability affect your job? Are there any accommodations?
Charisse: I have been having some struggles getting a job. A lot of places want their workers to work at a fast pace but moving fast is a challenge for me with the way my disability affects me. Also a lot of jobs require good hand control which is another challenge because of my uncontrollable sudden shakes and jerks. Right now I have my own site where I make and sell different crafts. So that’s my small job for now. I would love to get a job dealing with filming and/or video editing, public speaking, or even getting into something dealing with theater/acting. I have filmed, edited, and uploaded over 100 videos on my YouTube I have filmed, edited, and uploaded over 100 YouTube videos on my YouTube channel all by myself. I’m very interested in how movies and TV shows are filmed. In April 2014 I had my first public speaking event at A & M University in Alabama, I told my life story of hope to a class there. I was invited to be the Keynote Speaker at a conference in Opelika, AL in May 2014 but I couldn’t make it, they still opened the conference showing some of my videos. My YouTube videos are being use in many different colleges in America and outside of America to teach college students about disabilities. I have been dreaming of becoming an actress since I was a little girl. I love music, dancing, acting, being on stage, and being on camera. Growing up I was in many church musicals and did a drama class in high school, it was my favorite class! I enjoy performing! I did a text recording for a performance called Prometheus- Empedocles Fragments for the arts and humanities festival 2013, Being Human, at King’s College in London. I have done a few online auditions for movies so far.
UM: Tell me about the biggest obstacle you face having a disability?
Charisse: The biggest obstacle I had to face was accepting my disability. I struggled with this for years because of the bullying and judgment I went through growing up. I used to be terrified to talk to people and present projects to my classes because of others making fun of my speech issues. I used to have a fear of eating at school and out in public because of rude comments and dirty looks other classmates made. As I got older I learn to accept myself and my disability. I realized that others didn’t really understand my disability and that being different isn’t a bad thing. Different is beautiful. I overcame my fears and I now love my life.
UM: Do you drive? Were you worried that you wouldn’t be able to, or do you want to learn?
Charisse: I have been taking driving lessons. I was worried in the beginning about driving but it has got better. I use a machine that makes the wheel easier to turn because my arms are not very strong. I also use a spinning knob on the steering wheel which makes it easier for me to hold onto the wheel. I drive with both feet, one foot covering the brake and the other foot covering the gas, because I can’t move one foot fast enough from the gas over to the brake.
UM: What is something that you hope gets better for the disabled community?
Charisse: To see more activities and programs for people with disabilities. To see more disability awareness and understanding getting out there. More awareness leads to more understanding which leads to more acceptance.
UM: A quote or saying that keeps you motivated. Why?
Charisse: There are a lot of quotes that keep me motivated. One of my favorite quotes is “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” by Walt Disney. This is one of the many quotes I live by because I have done so many things that others thought were impossible for me to do and I will continue to do the impossible. If you believe in yourself, nothing is impossible.