A woman who survived the Boston Marathon bombing says people with disabilities deserve respect and opportunity. She is one speaker during this week’s Disabilities Rights Conference in Sioux Falls. The gathering is aimed at health workers, business leaders, educators and officials to raise awareness and remind people of their role in protecting the rights of people with disabilities.
Before April 15, 2013 Heather Abbott was a full-time human resources manager who specialized in affirmative action and equal employment opportunity.
“So I was helping my company to attract and attain women, minorities, veterans, and people with disabilities. Never, ever did I think I would become one of those people with a disability, so I have a whole new perspective now,” Abbott says.
Abbott was at the finish line of the Boston Marathon more than two years ago to support runners completing the race. Shrapnel from the second of two bombs hit her left foot. It was so severe she had to amputate her left leg below the knee.
Now Abbott stands in Sioux Falls in black high-heeled peep-toe shoes. She uses a prosthetic leg. Abbott says she refuses to let a disability rob her of things she enjoys.
“I didn’t love running before I lost my leg, but I didn’t want to give it up either. You don’t want anything taken away,” Abbott says. “A lot of people complain about their jobs, but I bet the second they’re told they can’t go there any more, they wouldn’t be too happy about it. So it’s really important for people’s, I think, sanity in a respect to be able to resume their lives the way that they had before or as close to the way that they lived it before. They can.”
Abbott says people with disabilities have rights. She says employers should make reasonable accommodations so they can retain qualified workers, regardless of disability.
Avera, the South Dakota U-S Attorney’s Office, and LifeScape sponsor the Disabilities Rights Conference in Sioux Falls.