I’m a 43-year-old man with cerebral palsy who lives in Covington, La. I hit one of the many roadblocks, both personally and professionally, about five years ago. Starting over is not easy for anyone. But when you add in having a physical disability, I felt like it is almost impossible.
When I returned to Louisiana (where I’m from), I stopped fighting. For the first time in a long time, I asked myself, “What it is going to take to make me happy?”
I thought back to when I was truly content with life. I had to go back to when I was 7 and was introduced to sports for people with Cerebral Palsy.
So what happened and how do I get that feeling back?
I started looking to get involved. I talked to Northshore Families Helping Families who suggested I get involved with People First of Louisiana, so I did.
I was clueless on what I was joining, but I was always taught that when life gets tough, look for involvement. I started attending meetings once a month and got involved.
I asked, “What is People First?”
It was explained to me that People First of Louisiana Northshore Chapter is a group of people with various disabilities who want to communicate issues to and with policymakers, legislators and government agencies about our needs.
Most of these issues do not involve me, but they do involve people who are just like me. Many bills are signed that affect our quality of life in the community.
It’s truly an honor to see the People First Louisiana state office send someone to the Northshore in Covington to listen to us. We need to take advantage of the voice we are given because we have a voice.
In return, we follow through when they make recommendations about what we do. People First of Louisiana is there for us, we know that they are listening.
How can we start to make a difference in people’s lives?
People First is more than an organization to me. It has been life changing to realize where and how I can make a difference. I am now aware of the major decisions being made every day. I feel like a productive member of society.
When I became involved with People First, my self-confidence was at an all-time low. Being a member of People First of Louisiana Northshore Chapter had a major impact on restoring my self-confidence to achieve my goal of becoming a motivational speaker.
All my life, I wanted to make a difference. Now I am. I have always been an extrovert and thought that one day it would pay a dividend. Today, I am in pursuit of one of my dreams of being a public speaker. This is something I have always wanted to do, but thought you had to be somebody important.
Guess what? I am somebody important.
I am Jeff Arseneaux, a man with a story. It is my goal to be a force that brings people with disabilities and the community together as one. This is a tall order. I can’t do it alone, but I can be the start of something big.
I am a firm believer in communication. If we don’t communicate our needs as human beings with disabilities, then how do we expect perceptions to change? I have to do my part.
We live in an “I want it, and I want it now” society that is fast paced.
I am speaking from experience, the faster I go, the less I get accomplished. So how does a person with a disability fit in today’s world? It’s up to us to communicate our needs to the public, and above all, look for ways to pursue our dreams.
For a long time, I struggled because I thought I was in life by myself. When I was introduced to the members of People First of Louisiana Northshore Chapter, I realized that I was not in the life boat alone. I had people next to me supporting me and that’s a big deal.
Thanks all the people of our community for being open to making people with disabilities a priority.