“I think we all, every one of us, have abilities and disabilities,” Jeremy Robbins told his audience at Chemeketa Community College’s Student Center.
“Some of us,” he said as he placed his hands on his wheelchair, “have ones we can see, and some of us have ones we can’t see,”
Robbins came to Chemeketa on April 26 as a guest of the TRiO programs department to give a presentation on his own story following an injury that resulted in his quadriplegia and to discuss the issues of disability as a part of multiculturalism and disability access in education.
On October 3, 1999, Robbins was out bike riding when he misgauged his location on a hill leading down to a street. He wound up striking a retaining wall, somersaulting and breaking the C5, C6 and C7 vertebrae in his neck.
“It instantly felt like my body was on fire,” he said.
But after his injury, and battling the anger he felt, Robbins began to work on his education, earning an associate’s degree from Mt. Hood Community College, a bachelor’s from Marylhurst University, then a master’s in rehabilitation counseling at Portland State University.
His time in school, he said, not only helped him move past the anger he had with his injury, but also helped him to realize that when it came to issues with disability access on his campuses, he had to be able to advocate for himself. He now frequently speaks to people who are newly disabled and speaks to raise awareness of disability needs on college campuses.
He ultimately wants to work in disability services at a community college, he said.
Robbins said when talking to people who have just had a spinal cord injury, “I dilute it down to one statement: Life rolls on.”
Disabilities in general, but especially spinal cord injuries, bring with them a unique culture and challenges, Robbins said. They can happen to anybody of any gender, race or wealth. It’s up to the people themselves to decide what they want to do.
“If I can make it work, I know anyone can make it work,” he said.