Micah Fialka-Feldman is a speaker and advocate for disability pride, justice and inclusion. He is part of the first wave of adults with intellectual disabilities attending college and has been fully included in schools and community. Micah is also a current member of the TASH Board of Directors. More information about his story can be found at www.throughthesamedoor.com.
What has your experience with college been like?
I think it’s just been great – I think going to college opened my mind to more things I can do and I think I have opened my mind to do better. I’m a better person since I graduated.
How has going to college helped you since you graduated?
It helped me be more independent and it helped me learn how to ask for help less. I learned how to do more things on my own. Going to college has helped me be a better since I was at college.
When you were at college, things didn’t always go smoothly, did they?
No, it was pretty easy during the first couple of years and then when I got to my dorm thing it took a long court battle.
Do you want to tell me about the dorm thing?
It was a long fight, I was trying to apply to live on campus, and they first said yes and then they changed their mind and then I had a meeting with the Vice President all on my own to explain that I could live on campus and I told her that I could live on campus and they said no. And it took a 2 year court battle to make it happen. Lots of students were behind me. I won my housing case last year.
What would you say to other universities about including students with intellectual disabilities?
What I would say is that I think it would be a shame if they didn’t do it, because I think lots of college programs that have been going around the country and starting and I think it’s a great idea for people with intellectual disabilities to have a chance to go to college. There are so many sheltered workshops now and college is a way to look at other ways of thinking of going to school after high school.
What advice you give to other people with intellectual disabilities?
I think I would say that if they want to college, they have a right to dream and a right to go to college and a right to believe in their dreams and to be what they want to become. And they have to have a good teacher and a good school and a good team that will help them with their dreams.
What would you say to families that are afraid about their child with an intellectual disability going to college or living outside of their home?
I would say have the person try it out and see how they can be more independent than some people think they can. They have a great mind for doing things that a lot of people think they can’t do. People have to believe that people with disabilities can do lots of things.
TASH thanks Ari Ne’eman for conducting this interview with Micah.