By Bethany Broadwell
Kyle Glozier’s passage into adulthood includes plenty of the high points associated with his age. From his high school senior trip to the Cedar Point Amusement Park to his West Greene High School graduation ceremony to his first semester at Temple University, Glozier has learned some extraordinary lessons about the tenacity it takes to secure disability rights in the course of reaching these milestones. Glozier is maturing as an advocate, and his growing realm of experience can only further his leadership skills.
When he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2000, Glozier addressed the importance of people with disabilities participating in communities and getting quality educations. “Without money or federal legislation that guarantees services in the community, I may not be able to make my dreams come true,” Glozier informed the spectators. “My future will either be living the American dream just like anyone else, or it could be my nightmare.”
Glozier, who has set his sights on becoming the first United States President with cerebral palsy, was brave enough to testify before the U.S. Congress in 2000 about the absolute necessity of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He was hardly intimidated that celebrity Clint Eastwood, who also owned a public accommodation, had issued a statement opposing the legislation during his testimony.
“It is not right that I should be excluded from some place simply because the owner fails to think about all the people that may visit their place of business,” Glozier countered.
Not long before, during the emotional period following his grandfather’s death in 1999, Glozier had to deal with funeral home steps as an obstacle. The Glozier family used the incident to ask the funeral director to install a lift. Not only did the business owner agree to make changes, he kept his promise and completed the work prior to the family checking on accessibility months later.
Born with athetoid cerebral palsy, Glozier, of New Freeport, Pa., uses a power wheelchair for mobility and a Pathfinder communication device. A personal care attendant assists him seven days a week.
Because Glozier has taken his physical challenges in stride, he can invigorate young people with disabilities to become more involved in disability rights and to work toward resolution when their civil rights are violated. That mission is one he seems to pursue seriously with the support of his family. According to Glozier, parents must get the resources they need so they can help their children realize a fact he has come to understand: “Disability is just a normal part of life.”
As “normal” as it may be for Glozier, Bob Kafka, a national organizer with ADAPT, explains, “Kyle has grown up with parents who are disability righteous and has been attending ADAPT actions for over a decade.”
Kyle’s dad, Jim Glozier, worked for several years as the assistant director of a center for independent living in Southwest Pennsylvania. He has been an ADAPT organizer for about 10 years. Now, he’s producing documentaries related to the disability rights movement. “We participated in the movement alongside Kyle. We encouraged him to push the envelope,” says the elder Glozier. “Kyle is willing to question authority.”
“My favorite thing to do,” says Kyle, “is practice activism.”
Jim expanded on his son’s passion by sharing Kyle’s insistence that Kafka include the need to provide attendant services for children in the language of the MiCASSA bill. Kyle refused to be satisfied until the detail was addressed.
“Kyle has had to be an advocate for himself, fighting the schools and a system that doesn’t always welcome the inclusion of people with significant disabilities,” says Kafka. “He understands that fighting a lone battle is not enough. You have to join together with others to make the system move in our direction.”
Formal advocacy efforts like organized events are confidence-building opportunities, but routine daily incidents have kept Glozier determined to stay strong for his causes. For instance, during his sixth-grade class trip to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the teacher failed to include Glozier in a class picture.
“My teacher didn’t think about my needs and me. That was not only embarrassing, it made me angry, because it violated my civil and human rights as a citizen with a disability,” Glozier says. “I remember looking up at my friends and classmates that were on the second set of stairs. He [the teacher] forgot me at the bottom, not thinking for a second that I couldn’t climb the steps.”
That same year Glozier ran for and won the election for sixth-grade class president.
Thelma Szarell, the current assistant to the West Greene School District’s superintendent and local education agent for special education, was Glozier’s middle school principal at the time. She feels the school district has learned from the process of educating students like Glozier. “They experience the same trials and tribulations–physical and emotional–as any of our other students, in addition to their own disabilities, which may or may not be regarded by them as obstacles to overcome.”
Szarell adds, “Kyle came to us very quiet and complacent. Over the years he has become quite the outspoken individual, not one bit shy.” The school system, she says, is only partly responsible for his development. Glozier’s parents, she says, have encouraged him to be an individual and to be aggressive in pursuing his dreams.
“I think that Kyle will be communicating his goals and achievements to others who perhaps have not had the level of assistance and encouragement that he has been given,” Szarell says. “He will be an individual who will speak out to those who need a model, setting high goals and achieving them.”
One of Glozier ‘s favorite causes is the MiCASSA legislation that has yet to pass. In 2003 he participated in a 14-day march with ADAPT that went from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., to rally for MiCASSA’s goal–getting personal care money to follow people with disabilities. Passage of MiCASSA would enable people to make their own choices about whether to live in the community or an institution.
“MiCASSA will be a powerful law that will help me to live independently wherever I choose, in any state I choose,” Glozier says. “It will entitle me to have the personal care attendant services I need, that put me on the same level playing field with the rest of society, instead of the current entitlement to live incarcerated in a nursing home or other institution.”
Glozier intends to work toward obtaining a law degree in disability rights. Getting his work done and making friends are the aspects he expects will be most challenging during his time on campus.
“Temple prides itself on being an open community that embraces diversity,” says Dr. Dorothy M. Cebula, the university’s director of Disability Resources and Services since 1993. “I have been most impressed over the years to see the inclusion of persons with disabilities as part of that diversity.”
National ADAPT organizer Stephanie Thomas is one of Glozier’s role models. She described how the young man’s style can fit into the environment: “Kyle is a hands-on person and a positive and dynamic force for change. A lot of people really relate to him and are excited by a younger person who is passionate about advocacy.”
Glozier has what Kafka calls “focused anger,” that is, energy high enough to bring about change, but nevertheless controlled. People with disabilities approaching their 20s, like Glozier, have lived most of their lives post-1980, which Kafka says means they are accustomed to the integration level that others have earned. Events like ADAPT’s July Seattle action, which confronted state governors about the long-term care system, have given Glozier a chance to put, according to Kafka, “a real face on what has become a statistical morass.” Kafka adds, “I think Kyle can be the voice of the future.”
Such a distinction is an honor, according to the young advocate: “I feel empowered to know that there are people out there working together to demolish the societal and attitudinal barriers people with disabilities face every day.”
At 18, Glozier is a legal adult now, meaning he faces possible arrest when participating in civil disobedience. “I will do whatever it takes,” he says, “from phoning legislators to writing letters to protesting.”
With MiCASSA as the issue he feels most passionately about, the older Glozier gets, the more he thinks about living accommodations independent of his parents. During his college experience, he intends to live on campus with the support of attendant care.
“I believe that all people need the choice of where they want to live,” Glozier says. “I think the president and Congress should think about the Pledge of Allegiance, especially the last line: with liberty and justice for ALL!”