I was an English major in college, so I’ve read my share of Thoreau and Emerson (and always loved both). It wasn’t until Trisston Wright Burrows, a true disability success story, mentioned a quote to me last week that I was reminded of these powerful words.
“If one advances confidently in the directions of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau
Trisston is certainly an example of one who “advances confidently in the directions of his (or her) dreams.”
Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy shortly after her birth in 1975, the 33-year-old has never met a challenge her upbeat attitude couldn’t overcome. “From the day I was born, the word ‘can’t’ has never been in my vocabulary,” says Trisston. “My family has always encouraged me to do my very best, and that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do.”
While other toddlers were learning to walk, Trisston was getting familiar with her wheelchair. When the time for kindergarten came along, she became the first student with a disability to be mainstreamed into the Autauga County School System.
Although she sat side-by-side with her classmates without disabilities, that equality did not come without challenges. According to Trisston, she and her family lobbied for ramps to be built, bathroom stalls to be widened, and most importantly, the administration and teachers had to be educated on the rights and abilities of a person with a disability.
As a member of the marching band and several school clubs, she was more involved in school activities than several of her peers. She graduated with an Advanced Alabama High School Diploma with honors and went on to major in Marketing at Auburn University at Montgomery.
During college Trisston truly hit her stride. She served in numerous honor societies and leadership roles and even as the student representative on the Americans with Disabilities Act Taskforce. She graduated Summa Cum Laude at the top of her class in the School of Business, but Trisston didn’t slow down from there. In October of 2004 she was crowned Ms. Wheelchair America/Alabama 2005.
“(The title) was a dream come true and has given me extensive opportunities to travel across the state of Alabama and the United States of America advocating, educating and promoting the abilities of people with disabilities,” says Trisston. The title opened the door to numerous speaking engagements during her tenure and afterward with the message of “Extra-Ordinary Abilities of People with Disabilities”. She was able to meet with influential leaders, including Governor Bob Riley, about disabilities and specific causes, like the VSA (Very Special Arts) of Alabama (of which she was a featured artist).
During one memorable speaking engagement at the Youth Leadership Forum at Troy University, Trisston met a young man, Brian, who also has Cerebral Palsy. The two found they shared more than just the same disability, and they began dating and even making speaking appearances together. During a speech at Auburn University, Brian proposed in front of an audience of 500. Of course, she said “yes.”
Today Mr. and Mrs. Brian and Trisston Burrows drive a 2008 BraunAbility wheelchair van to a steady stream of speaking engagements across Alabama and the rest of the country. This is Trisston’s fifth Dodge Entervan; she’s a loyal customer because, “It’s a package deal – accessibility, dependability, and independence. And to top it all off, it just looks COOL!”
We’re proud to be part of the reason Brian and Trisston are able to spread their message of confidence and optimism with their disability success story to audiences across Alabama and beyond. To learn more about Trisston, visit her website or visit Brian and Trisston’s website.