By Kenneth Kelty
Starting at a young age I knew that I did not want to only be expected to follow in somebody else’s direction. I wanted to create my own story. Oftentimes you don't hear stories of young kids or figures with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) making a difference or having a meaningful life.
Growing up and coming from a family of writers and educators I have always enjoyed documenting memories and hearing stories.
Until I was a student at Western Carolina University in The UP Program and asked to share my story in classrooms and at conferences I would never have thought about becoming a professional speaker and advocate.
After graduating I knew that I wanted to continue with my professional advocacy and disability policy work.
I was recruited to be a LEND Trainee in Disability Advocacy at UNC-Chapel Hill a year after graduation where I was able to gain more professional graduate-level education and professional leadership in advocacy.
As I have grown as a professional speaker and disability advocate I want to keep growing and being the change I want to see in the world.
More professional experiences in leadership and advocacy for people with I/DD have become available, but there is not always attention around people living meaningful experiences or disability representation around policy or inclusive higher educational opportunities.
Representation of all ages including for students with I/DD matters because no one should be limiting the choices of meaningful experiences.
Accessibility for all abilities is important because everyone has a message to share whether written, video, or by voice recording, like podcasts. All people’s voices matter and have a right to be heard and respected.
In August of 2021, I began working as a Disability Advocate at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC-CH where I am able to collaborate on my experiences and interests. One day my mentor Anna Ward and I were talking about creating a podcast that is focused around people with I/DD who are “Exceeding Expectations'' and who are trailblazers on a local or national level, very much like the “Tuesdays with Liz” series through The AUCD. Starting this podcast called “Exceeding Expectations, with Kenneth Kelty,“ has helped with expanding my audience and platform to be able to talk more about disability advocacy. It has given me professional connections, speaking opportunities, and further expanded my creativity and knowledge. I see the podcast as an accessible way to share important information about disability advocacy, rights, and representation that ties into the theme, “Nothing about us without us!”
Kenneth Kelty is an award-winning motivational speaker and activist on his life with disabilities and self-determination. Kenneth interviews trailblazers and leaders on both a national level and local level as well on his podcast, Exceeding Expectations. Kenneth is very passionate about disability activism and inclusive higher educational opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.