My sister Annie didn’t want you to know she was amazing, but she was. She lived her life unapologetically and was fiercely passionate about the things and the people she loved. We were both born with spinal muscular atrophy, and we both encountered discrimination in both direct and indirect ways. But Annie didn’t let that stop her. She understood that she could educate others by living life boldly and unapologetically.
Unfortunately, Annie passed away on January 20, 2009. But rather than mark each passing year with a somber memorial, we’ve turned the anniversary of her death into a global day of empowerment and education: The International Day of Acceptance.
What is the International Day of Acceptance? Well, there’s both a short answer and a long answer to that. The short answer is it’s a day when people all over the world vow publicly to accept and embrace their challenges and support others no matter their abilities. This was Annie’s message, and by keeping her hope alive, we are celebrating her legacy as well as a universal truth: that we are all valuable.
The longer answer is that the International Day of Acceptance is the culmination of a lifetime of Annie’s energy, ideas and passion. The International Day of Acceptance is, in a lot of ways, Annie personified.
Determined to participate in a world that often told her she couldn’t, Annie was a rule breaker who delighted in defying limits. One of the ways she did that was with 3E Love, an experiment in changing perceptions and beginning conversations about acceptance. In 2007, she asked me to join her to help get the concept off the ground.
At the heart, no pun intended, was the Wheelchair Love symbol Annie designed. When we began, Annie had a dream that her design could unite people of all abilities. 10 years later, it has become an international brand. More than 50,000 people in all 50 states and 33 countries own something with the logo on it. Some people, like Annie, carry the heart with them forever as tattoos.
The Wheelchair Heart symbol goes far beyond tattoos and t-shirts, however. It represents a movement, it sparks a conversation, and it establishes a way of life. The Wheelchair Heart symbol says everything that Annie Hopkins represented: a person with a disability who doesn’t accept anything less than equality, who will push boundaries in a way that can change the world.
I invite you to celebrate January 20th, the International Day of Acceptance, by helping me carry on Annie’s legacy. You don’t have to own one of our products. You can make a homemade poster, doodle the symbol on your hand or post a photo to social media. Start a conversation, spread the message. Use January 20th as a day to promote social acceptance of disability.
Embrace diversity. Educate your community. Empower each other.
Love life, Stevie
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