“When I was 3 years old, I woke up one morning unable to move my neck,” opens Sophie Weber ’24.
Following countless doctor and specialist appointments, Weber was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis and uveitis (inflammation of the eyes). She has been active in raising awareness for juvenile arthritis, participating in walks and fundraising campaigns.
“To combat these diseases, I did monthly Remicade infusions for 13 years of my life at Riley and Kosair Children’s Hospitals. I now do weekly self-injections to avoid hospitalization during the pandemic,” she explains. “Though these infusions helped treat my arthritis, they drastically lowered my immune system. This meant that no sickness was ever just as simple as a small cold. This past year has been the first time isolating from sicknesses for most people, but this is all old hat for me! I have had to switch to homebound learning many times before during flu seasons.”
From Jeffersonville, Ind., Weber was awarded the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship last year and was named on the Dean’s List for fall term. She is involved in the Feminist Club, Hanover’s chapter of the Lilly Scholars Network, and serves as the Student Senate representative for Love Out Loud. Weber plans on majoring in education.
“Recently, I was accepted into the Gregory S. Fehribach Summer Internship Program. This program connects college students with disabilities to paid internships that correlate with their major, and they provide seminars on how to best succeed in the workforce with a disability.”
In class, you will find Weber sitting in the front of the room, not just because she’s an attentive student, but so she can see the board and projected materials. To avoid straining her eyes, she utilizes audiobooks, textbooks and worksheets with larger fonts, and Read&Write software.
“Eye strain causes headaches and further damage to my sight. I’ve undergone six eye surgeries relating to my uveitis. These surgeries have left me legally blind without glasses. You’ll often find me running into corners or knocking things over because my depth perception is off due to the high magnification needed in my glasses prescription.”
These accommodations make sure that Weber has educational opportunities equal to those of her peers. Small class sizes at Hanover are also beneficial, as it makes it easier for Weber and other students with disabilities to connect with their professors and work out specific needs for each situation.
“I am in a place of privilege in that I cannot remember life before my disability. This is my normal, and there is absolutely no reason to feel bad for me! If given the chance, I would not change anything about myself and the journey I’ve been taken on. It’s important that people know kids get arthritis too, and not every disability is visible at a glance.”
During Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (March), we seek to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of the Hanover community.