Raleigh, NC, July 29, 2020
When Jean Harris learned that her young son, Clay, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, she wasn’t sure where to turn but as a mom, was determined to give him all the love and support he needed. When Clay was four years old, Jean and her husband made the difficult decision to move from Pinehurst to Raleigh to have access to better services for Clay. This meant leaving the town she and her husband grew up in and where their extended family still lived.
In Raleigh, Clay was a student in special education classrooms and graduated from high school with a diploma. He received Individual and Community Services and Supported Employment Services from Easterseals UCP. Beginning at the age of seven, Clay learned how to move about using a wheelchair.
Jean said, “Clay is a blessing to us and we are proud of him. Through his lifetime we’ve dealt with some extreme challenges. We have told our children that ‘You can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it.’ However, in Clay’s case, that’s not always true due to his disability.”
Clay is now 51 years old and lives with a caregiver a few miles away from his parents. Jean said, “He’s the biggest sports nut and loves the Atlanta Braves and NC State! He is very happy and we see him often.” When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law 30 years ago, Clay’s life became more accessible with more curb cuts, ramps and handicapped parking.
Reflecting on the past 30 years, Jean said, “We still have a long way to go to make the lives of people with disabilities better such as more handicapped parking, more curb cuts, smoother sidewalks, more ramps, and more accessible restaurants and hotels.”
Clay’s family travels and some of the biggest challenges are hotels that don’t have roll-in showers or restaurants that are narrow and don’t have room for Clay’s electric wheelchair. Their family went on a cruise a year ago and Jean said it was the best family vacation. Everything was accessible and it was special for Clay to see a new part of the world. Jean hopes to see continued improvements for people living with disabilities so they can explore the world without limitations.
Easterseals provides meaningful and exceptional services so that children and adults living with disabilities and mental health challenges can live, learn, work and play in their communities.Kathy.Edgerton@eastersealsucp.com(O) 919-865-8660 | (C) 919-208-0621