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Disability Pride Month, Featuring Zach Brown

Happy July and Disability Pride Month! To celebrate Disability Pride Month, we get to hear from one of our outstanding members: Zach Brown! Zach is a rising Junior at Indiana University studying non-profit management, and he is a member of the Marathon Relations committee for IUDM 2022.

When Zach was ten years old, he went to the local hospital with a suspected concussion. However, after a brain scan, a mass was found on his brainstem and he was immediately transferred to Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC. A rare malformation of blood vessels in his brainstem caused the mass and led to two bleeds within a week of each other. These bleeds left him paralyzed on the left side of his body and the right side of his face. They also caused severe hearing and vision loss, memory loss, and bodily temperature regulation issues, among other things. But given the location of his Cerebral Cavernous Malformation (CCM) on his brainstem, it was considered inoperable. Nevertheless, he had several eye surgeries to eliminate his double vision in addition to multiple facial reanimating surgeries. Additionally, he spent years in intense physical therapy and occupational training to help strengthen his body and mind. After a few years of healing, Zach and his family decided to create an organization to spread awareness and raise funds for people with his condition, CCM. The Zach Brown 5k started as a local charity event near his house growing up, and it would go on to include events in many other states and counties.

Now, Zach works to bring awareness to his communities by organizing and fundraising for causes that directly benefit rare diseases and people with disabilities. He also aims to bring awareness to the disability community by being open about his life, disabilities, difficulties, and how he finds ways through those difficulties - not around them. When asked about what he wished more people knew about the disability community, he said: “I want more people to know that the disability community is all around you. We are your friends, your classmates, your aunts and uncles, and your neighbors. Just because we’ve built a community of our own, doesn’t mean we don’t want to be a part of yours. During this Disability Pride month, I hope everyone reading this will take the time to reach out to the people in their lives with disabilities and share a moment with them, you’d be surprised how much you have in common.”

To Zach, Disability Pride months means 31 days of opportunities to educate yourself on how to make the world more accessible during the other 11 months. It also serves as a reminder to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions that disabled people make to every faction of our society, because they are worthy of celebration. He says, “supporting the disabled community is as easy as you’re willing to make it. Take time to listen to those impacted by the world around you. Understand that your perception of society is not the same as everyone else’s. Understand that not all disabilities will be apparent to you — those people are still deserving of your support too! Most importantly, call out and fight ableism everywhere you find it. Identify the issues that many of us are fighting and be committed to helping correct them.”

“Something I wish people knew about me would be that I’m proud to be disabled. Many of my greatest heroes, friends, and loved ones have disabilities. I am proud of the person I am and although it isn’t always easy to be me, I’m glad I am. On a lighter note I wish people knew that if I make you repeat yourselves 100x times I just can’t hear you… I promise I’m interested.” - Zach Brown

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