A 26-year-old southeastern New Brunswick woman, who has a terminal disease, is using the time she has left to fight for the rights and needs of the disabled.
Brittany Roberts, of Pointe-du-Chêne, says her final wish is to dispel the myths about people with physical disabilities and draw attention to the lack of accessibility for those with mobility issues.
"Yes, I'm in a wheelchair. I'm disabled. But I'm not disabled because I'm in a wheelchair," said Roberts, who has spinal muscular atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy.
The degenerative disease affects motor neurons, nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord that control essential voluntary muscle movement, such as walking, speaking, swallowing and breathing.
Roberts has been in a wheelchair since she was four years old and has lost the use of her hands.
"I can't really do anything for myself," she said.
She says the disease will eventually kill her.
"Eventually my body will just give up," she told Information Morning Moncton.
But Roberts' spirit and determination to raise awareness about disabilities is strong.
"I think people are afraid of what they don't understand," she said.
Roberts says she realizes people likely have questions about why she's in a wheelchair and she would prefer they simply ask, rather than stare.
'Society sees us as something that is broken and needs to be fixed … Society sees us as something to be pitied.' - Brittany Roberts
"That's one of the reasons I hate going out," she said.
"I don't mind if kids look, but I do mind when you see their parents, you know kind of like, 'No, no, no, don't look at that person. Stay away from them.' That's rude and it teaches the kid to be afraid of wheelchairs."
Roberts says having her older sister, Vanessa, treat her as her "annoying little sister," helped her to grow up feeling "normal."
But notes some people still pat her on the head, like she's a dog.
"Society sees us as something that is broken and needs to be fixed … Society sees us as something to be pitied," she said.
"I'm disabled because society will not — they refuse to make the world accessible for us. You know, why isn't there a ramp at every store and why does it have to be hidden in the back?
"It makes me feel like [I'm] not a human being and that is how society makes us feel. It has nothing to do with my illness. It has everything to do with the world around me."