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Alumna Serves as Voice for Disabled Community

Alumna Serves as Voice for Disabled Community

Theresa de VeraAs a junior at Loyola Marymount University, Theresa May De Vera ’04,’08 was very involved in diverse leadership activities. She was popular among her peers and an exemplary student. De Vera had a typical college experience, until an unexpected turn transformed her life forever.

In 1996 De Vera went into a three-month coma after a sudden illness that for seven minutes caused her to lose oxygen to the brain. The incident led her on an arduous recovery path. She uses a wheelchair now, but her disability has not stopped her from pursuing her dreams and surmounting obstacles.

“Medical reason cannot define why I am alive today. … If you take anything back from who I am or what I have done, remember this: Never allow your disability to become your inability,” said de Vera. “I had been told time and time again, ‘There’s no way she could do that,’ but sure enough, I did.”

De Vera eventually returned to college, completing a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in pastoral theology at LMU. She was among Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s first appointees to the city’s Commission on Disability in 2005. As a commissioner, De Vera advocates for to gain quality of life improvements. She also serves on the board of directors for ACCESS Paratransit, a transportation service for functionally disabled people in Los Angeles County.

On June 26, De Vera will receive the Jerry Stein Independent Living Award from the Disabled Resources Center of Long Beach for her professional accomplishments and for inspiring others to believe in themselves.

“In my 12 years of being disabled, I have received numerous awards and recognitions from various organizations, but this is the first award that I am receiving from the community and constituents that I serve, so this recognition I will hold closest to my heart,” De Vera said.

De Vera regularly participates in speaking engagements, and her story has been documented in many television and radio programs. She is writing a children’s book that teaches kids how to approach and be respectful to individuals with disabilities. She is also considering writing her autobiography.

“It is not very often that someone receives such a prestigious award for doing what they do everyday, and that is being the voice for the unrepresented disabled community,” said De Vera.