Poet, author, & disability rights activist
“Growing up disabled, I remember feeling very alone among my nondisabled peers, and although I did have friends, none of them looked like me. None of them could relate to my body or my truths as a disabled girl. It wasn’t until my early twenties when I discovered a whole world of disabled people outside the hospital and rehab experience. I discovered a world of disabled people who, for the first time in my life, represented people I could see myself in –bodies that looked like mine and moved like mine. Bodies that did not hate being disabled. Some of these people became my mentors and friends, and people who changed my life by leading me down the path they had already traveled.
To me, mentorship is about that. It is about sharing what we know and making sure we pass on the strength and the power of our life experience other disabled people. It means making sure the younger generation understands there is a history of passionate advocacy behind everything they now have as members of our community. Mentoring means I am generous and loving with my time while recognizing that the time invested in disabled people is time that will shape the future of other disabled people even after I’m gone. Mentoring means to me, the opportunity to make sure disabled girls know they already have everything they will ever need to give and receive love. Mentoring means loving myself through every phase, so other disabled women can see themselves in me through self-love.”
We are proud to induct Maria Palacios into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.
Maria R. Palacios is a poet, author, spoken word performer, motivational speaker, social change advocate, disability rights activist, mentor, and workshop facilitator whose work has appeared on numerous multi-media publications, conferences, and live events over the last three decades.
Maria’s work centers around illustrating the power and beauty of disabled people without negating the truths surrounding the ableism and oppression faced by the disabled community.
Maria served as Hotline Case Manager for the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) from 1993 to 1997. During her time with HAWC, Maria not only trained and supervised hotline volunteers, but also implemented disability awareness trainings for staff and volunteers, enforcing the ADA during its early years as a law, and educating the Center about the need for a TTY line and ASL interpreters to serve the domestic violence needs of the deaf community. Maria also created the Power and Control Wheel for people with disabilities and has facilitated trainings and educational opportunities about the unique issues faced by women with disabilities in domestic violence and sexual assault situations. In addition, Maria was also responsible for overseeing the Safe Harbor Project which offered services to male survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
From 1998 to 2000, Maria served as Family Reading Coordinator for The Literacy Advance of Houston, coordinating ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, overseeing reading programs at Boys and Girls Clubs, schools, and public events. She also worked closely with schools in the implementation of the Focus Program which trained teachers and educators to enhance reading ability in children with learning disabilities.
Maria also served as Community Outreach/Information Coordinator for the Houston Center for Independent Living (HCIL) from December, 2011 to January 2016, Representing HCIL, Maria has served on the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Committee; served as panelist/presenter for the ADRC conference, during which she presented on the importance of community based living and the Supreme Court ruling commonly referred to as the “Olmstead Decision;” advocated for street accessibility; and implemented a consumer based Advocacy Taskforce, numerous empowerment workshops, creative writing classes, and more.
Some of Maria’s most cherished accomplishments and positions include her participation in efforts that led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as she was one of the Capitol Crawlers from the now iconic ADA march, as well as being inducted into the Hispanic Women in Leadership Hall of Fame in 1996 and receiving the Hispanic Excellence Award in 1997, exploring her personal connection to Frida Kahlo through live performances of her poetry at Houston’s annual Frida Fest celebration for seven straight years, participating in the Gulf Coast Poetry Tour (2009), founding Houston’s Annual Women with Disabilities Empowerment Forum.
Of particular passion to Maria is Sins Invalid, a performance project of artists with disabilities. With this group she has performed since 2007, co-facilitated their Tongue Rhythm Multi-Disciplinary Poetry Workshop in 2008, and is featured in the 2013 documentary, “Sins Invalid: An Unashamed Claim to Beauty in the Face of Invisibility.”
In the artistic world, Maria is known as “The Goddess on Wheels.”