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Matthew Jameson | Youth Leadership Network

Matthew Jameson

"I'm more of an introvert, and so not the type to make the leap. But once I learned about the work Easterseals does, I immediately wanted to join."

Matthew, 21, has been involved with Easterseals Massachusetts since 2014 as a youth leader and advocate. Born with mild spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, Matthew is passionate about disability rights. As a member of the organization’s Youth Leadership Network, he has spoken about supporting disability youth services at the Massachusetts State House and acted as a delegate and peer leader at the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Forum. After noting the success of the Easterseals’ empowerment and support program for females with disabilities Matthew was instrumental in starting Easterseals’ mentorship program for males with disabilities called Brothers Against Discrimination, a partner group to Thrive, an aspect of Easterseals that offers mentorship opportunities for young women. Jameson said he’s more of an introvert, and so not the type to make the leap. But once he learned about the work Easterseals does, he immediately wanted to join. Matthew is also involved with the organization's board of directors as the youth voice, ensuring the organization continues to empower youth with disabilities.

This past fall, Matthew was one of just nine Easterseals clients and three staff members selected from seventy-one affiliates across the country to take part in the annual Rose Parade as a representation of the diverse Easterseals communities throughout the country. The Easterseals float, “Celebrating Easterseals: 100 Years of Disability Services,” was a vibrant floral display to celebrate the 1.5 million people Easterseals provides disability services to each year nationwide. A 20-foot-tall birthday cake iced in crisp white coconut flakes and lined with more than 3,000 hot pink Princess Roses served as the centerpiece of the float. Flickering 100th anniversary candles and images of people with and without disabilities joined together near a swirl of orange and yellow marigolds and gold straw flower completed the floral cake. Reflecting on his first Easterseals experience collaborating across state lines on such a mainstream platform (Rose Parade), Jameson said, "The crowd was certainly very energetic and uplifting. I feel that all affiliates can and should raise their voices on a larger level. We should continue to be vocal about these issues on a local, state, and federal level."

Last March, Jameson spoke at the State House for legislation that would improve access for the disabled. Business owners would get 180 days to address an issue of accessibility at their location, but the fact that such legislation needed to be proposed in the first place is a concern. Jameson has been passionate about the rights of the disabled, saying that discrimination exists both subtly and overtly. On the overt side, Jameson pointed to the lack of access disabled people can experience in public settings. Prior to its closure, Jameson was a student at Mount Ida College. He recalled the disability services office being on the second floor, an obstacle to those in a wheelchair. Now enrolled at UMass Dartmouth, he said physical impediments exist at this school as well, such as in the poorly maintained walkways.

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