Interning in Washington and working with the Chinese Ministry on Civil Affairs are accomplishments worth bragging about for any college student. But for Chris Miller, a political science major, such an experience was much more significant.
Miller has Cerebral Palsy, a group of developmental disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and develops in the brain during pregnancy or shortly after birth, according to cerebralpalsy.org. He is able to move in a motorized wheelchair but requires assistance for some daily tasks that most others might find simple.
Having a disability, however, is an obstacle that Miller overcomes with passion, motivation and drive. Not only does he pursue his own dreams and ambitions, but he encourages others with disabilities to do the same through a presentation he calls, “Voice on Wheels.”
Through this presentation Miller teaches others about “people first language,” meaning that the person should come before the disability in conversation. He explains in “Voice on Wheels” that disabilities are something that people have and are not defining labels. For example, we should not say that someone is disabled, but rather they have a disability.
Serving as the Vice Chair of the NJ Council for Developmental Disabilities, Miller is able to teach people on campus as well as in the state capitol of Trenton about disabilities. After meeting Advocacy Training Coordinator Dennie Todd in Atlantic City, NJ, he was invited to participate in a program called Partners in Policy Making which is a leadership training program where he also teaches person first language.
Miller is no different than any other child who has been told that they can do anything they set their mind to, and he aims to prove that to the world. During his time at the University, Chris has actively pursued a political science degree with a minor in public policy, interned in Washington D.C., served as the Vice Chair for the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities (NJCDD) and more.
The number one goal during each of his accomplishments is to spread awareness about disabilities. “Through my career and course work [I think] I am a strong voice for people with disabilities,” Chris said confidently. “Persevere and you can achieve anything you want. Don’t let other people tell you that you can’t do something.”
Last year Miller interned in Washington D.C., a dream for many political science students. He gained the internship with the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) through the University after transferring from Brookdale Community College. “When I interned I got the unique opportunity to work with the Chinese Ministry on Civil Affairs,” said Miller. “That’s the equivalent to our Health and Human Services.”
When the Chinese Ministry on Civil Affairs came to Washington to learn about how people with disabilities are treated in America, Miller was a co-presenter. He explained that people with disabilities are still institutionalized in China, so presenting to the Chinese Ministry was that much more important for him.
“They couldn’t believe that I could ride my chair in the room and start presenting to them. Their reactions, they couldn’t stop moving their heads all around me talking about me,” Miller said proudly. “It was a great opportunity for me to show them that people with disabilities do make a difference.”
Influencing the topic of people with disabilities internationally is an important goal for Miller. After his internship, he returned to the University and became involved with Model UN, a club where students role play delegates to the United Nations (UN) and simulate UN committees. Miller’s role was being on the Civil Rights Committee.
While in Washington, Miller also worked with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to make travel easier for people with disabilities. Dr. Joseph Patten, Chair of the Political Science Department, said that Miller “played a leading role in crafting federal policy on how best to implement airport screening on disabled passengers.”
Miller is grateful to have had such an opportunity. It was in Washington where he feels that he has grown the most and learned how to be responsible on the job. He wants to return to D.C. to work once he graduates in January, 2015.
Carol, Miller’s assistant has the highest hopes that he will succeed in making his dreams come true. “He really wants to go to Washington to be a policy analyst and sit at the table and make the decisions. That’s what I want to see him do because that’s all he’s been talking about,” she said. Miller’s smile spread ear to ear at the thought of his future.
“Chris is a hero of mine… The thing I admire most about him is his ability to make things happen through the sheer determination of his will,” said Patten.
Miller’s continuous goal of making a difference and motivating others to change their perspectives is inspirational to such a wide audience. His aspirations have already become realities, proving that with big dreams and a big heart, one individual can have the power to change the world.
PHOTO COURTESY of Chris Miller