ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – October is disability awareness month. KTAB is highlighting different individuals living with disability. The month’s first individual is a woman who has physical disabilities. JoAnne Fluke has a number of roles in Abilene. She works at Disability in Action, where she helps others to lead more independent lives. 

“I believe that a disability is anything that challenges you to reach any type of goal or dreams”, said JoAnne. She met that challenge head on. She hasn’t let her physical disability come between her and her dreams, including one dream she’s had for years.

JoAnne uses her wheelchair to get from place to place. But she isn’t limited by it. She drives, is abl to walk on her hands, and even dance: “Even before I could walk on my hands, I danced. Growing up, I was like, ‘OK, I’m never going to have that opportunity.'”

She did have the opportunity, and has become quite accomplished.”I’ve actually competed nationally back when I lived in Kansas, and loved it”, says JoAnne. “The reason why I love it so much is because it breaks down so many barriers. You see an ‘able bodied’ person dancing with a person in a wheelchair, and all of those barriers seem to disappear.”

One of JoAnne’s other passions is helping others. “I’m passionate about helping people with disabilities be more independent and helping them be more included in their community. I’m passionate about that”, she says.

As an advocate in the disability community, JoAnne gets around. She attends City Council meetings, chairs the Citizen’s Advisory Board for People With Disabilities, and helps run events around the community. As an advocate, she explains some things that could help in her mission of inclusion.

Person-first language is one way to help those with disabilities feel welcomed. JoAnne adds, “Ask if you want to help them. Don’t just assume they need your help. Really, ultimately, just treat them as a person.”