Many scientists believe that something as simple as gratitude can improve a person’s psychological health. For Germán, a young man originally from Puerto Rico, this theory may hold some truth. After being the victim of a violent crime, he was unable to speak or move for nine long and painful months. During this time he realized that even though he would likely spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, he still had a lot to be grateful for. He was only 17 years old at that time.

Germán went through a transformation over the next few years. An athletic teen before his injury, he acclimated to life on wheels as a C6-C7 incomplete quadriplegic with relative ease because of his determination to get on with his life. He also experienced changes on a deeper level, saying, “I am now a more open person and more open to other points of view.”

When Germán was ready to venture out into his community as a new wheelchair user, he sought out the support of others living with disability. This journey lead him to the Philadelphia chapter of ADAPT, a grassroots disability rights organization.

Germán soon learned that there was much more to his new reality than surviving a life-changing injury and overcoming new physical challenges. He learned of the oppression and discrimination people with disabilities are faced with day to day. Instead of being overcome with anger and bitterness, this new knowledge only fueled his passion to take action to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities.

Germán is 33 years old now and has been a full-time disability rights activist with Philadelphia ADAPT for several years. He’s also learned to utilize the Medicaid-funded support services available to him through Pennsylvania’s Independence Waiver, which allow him access to Community Service Programs for People with Physical Disabilities (CSPPPD.)

In addition to providing Personal Care Attendants and a wheelchair for independent mobility, CSPPPD covers public transportation payments, assistive technology and home-modifications. This combination of Medicaid-funded health care services provides what Germán needs to live independently, to retain employment and to access his community.

His future plans include a year-long road trip across the country to galvanize the Disabled American Community into action. When Germán isn’t busy advocating for the civil rights of people with disabilities, he indulges in his admitted guilty pleasure of watching Japanese animation.

Consumer Stories

The needs and experiences of health care consumers — particularly people in marginalized or low-income communities or with complex needs and significant disabilities — are the driving force of the Center’s work. Documenting and amplifying patients’ real-life health care situations, in their own words, is central to our ability to create a health care system that works for all of us. Click below for stories from some of the consumers we work with.