Judy Sango: Disability is not inability

Judy Sango sits on a chair in her burgundy graduation gown and hat

“At times, things may be difficult, but do not be hesitant to pursue your passion.”

21-year-old Judy Sango has big dreams. One of her dreams is to become a judge.

Judy was born with Arthrogryposis, a condition that affects the joints. With frequent pain in her knees resulting in her having to use a wheelchair to get around most of the time, life has been challenging, but the prodigious support of family and the community has helped significantly.

Growing up in the small village of Chance on the Caribbean island of Dominica, Judy was shy, and during her time in primary and secondary school, she was bullied. This, however, increased her resolve to overcome whatever challenges may come her way. She recalls her fellow students expecting her to take a back seat at school events because of her disability, but over time, she decided to step up and use her voice.

Today, Judy oozes confidence. As President of Caribbean Youth with Disabilities Connections, she conducts the group’s Sunday evening meetings with polite precision. Being in this role gives her the opportunity to use her leadership skills which she developed in high school. She once enjoyed a tenure as Environmental Science Club Treasurer, functioned exceptionally well as a trained peer counsellor and was a natural leader at school assemblies. She was and still is also very active in her church. Judy reveals that having a “disability has been a blessing in disguise. “My focus would not have been the same if I did not have a disability,” she shared. “I am exploring areas of life that I may not have done. I am more compassionate and filled with love for humankind.”

Judy admits that her life has not been easy, and one of the main hurdles she dealt with was her own personal view of herself. For many years, she struggled with self-image. Although outwardly she seemed to be in control, inwardly, turmoil raged as she continued to battle with the person the mirror told her was not suitable. That changed in 2015, when she was recognized by the National Youth Council of Dominica and granted the Esteemed Challenge Award. Gradual change started at that point and now she is on a quest to confidently achieve her lifelong dreams.

From the tender age of three, she knew she wanted to be a judge, and now at twenty-one she declares, “nothing will stand in my way.” Each day brings her one step closer to achieving her goal, and although this journey consists of many, many years along a path of numerous uncertainties, Judy remains resolute. “I will get there! Education allows people to escape from hardship,” she said, “and the only real obstacle that stands between me and my goal can be myself and no one else.” With two more years left in college, Judy has her eyes set on attending the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados to pursue her law degree. This is the next step for her. She is not yet sure how, but believes that she will find a way.

While a career in the legal field remains at the forefront of her mind, she harbours an interest in accounting. App Development comes a close third on her list – being an entrepreneur is a pleasant thought. Intertwined amidst all of her grandiose plans is the one she holds dear, that is, to become a recognized disability rights advocate in the Caribbean. Her aptitude for public speaking lends itself well to this and she is keen on one day helping people with disabilities to reach their potential.

As plans for a future of great possibilities are being crafted, the first on the list will soon be realized. Judy is on the cusp of becoming a children’s author. She reminds people with disabilities:

Education is important. At times, things may be difficult, but do not be hesitant to pursue your passion.