See My Ability: People assume I have a mental disability — even though I have a university degree

For the next five weeks, CBC Calgary will be featuring different Calgarians to showcase the diversity that lies within our city. The campaign is called See My Ability and aims to create awareness and bring disability to the forefront where it usually isn’t.

Kelsey Ferrill shares her story as CBC Calgary launches a series to bring disability to the forefront

For the next five weeks, CBC Calgary will be featuring different Calgarians to showcase the diversity that lies within our city. The campaign is called See My Ability and aims to create awareness and bring disability to the forefront where it usually isn't. You can also follow along on our Instagram and with the hashtag #seemyabilityyyc.

These are the lives of real people with real, compelling stories to tell. We hope these stories shine light on the diverse faces that make up Calgary and highlight that there is lots to be learned. Read the first story in the series below. 

Thank you to everyone who shared their story. Your story matters. 

Kelsey, 28
Hometown: High River, Alta.

I was born in Calgary, but High River is really home for me.

There are lots of cool spots in Calgary, but to be honest, my favourite is any bookstore. Being around books brings me a sense of peace.

I wish that my love of books was what people first noticed about me but my facial paralysis is hard not to miss and it is impossible to hide.

Kelsey enjoys spending time walking her dog niece Brooke, a nine-year-old golden retriever. (Stephen Lubig/CBC)

I want to be known for my writing and advocacy work more than anything else. I have done a lot in the name of advocating for, raising awareness of and educating about Moebius syndrome. I was even featured in Chatelaine magazine in 2016, speaking about my experiences and life living with a rare condition.

But when I open my mouth to speak, people are sometimes taken aback by how I sound and a lot of people assume that I have a mental disability because of how I appear. It's frustrating to be thought of as less, solely based on appearance.

Kelsey was born with Moebius syndrome, which causes facial paralysis and also affects speech. Moebius is rare and it is thought to only affect about two to 20 per million births.  (Stephen Lubig/CBC)

The most difficult aspect of living with Moebius is the fact that most people have never heard of it.

Don't be afraid to ask me about Moebius, or what life is like living with a disability. For the sake of educational purposes, asking someone what is wrong with them is not the right way to go about finding out more.

Never judge someone based on appearance alone; we are all so much more than how we appear.- Kelsey Ferrill

There is nothing wrong with people that have disabilities. We are humans above all and that is what should be seen first and foremost. Don't make assumptions about what someone can or can't do.

I am more than my disability, as we all are.

I live on my own. I graduated from both college (with honours) and university, earning my journalism diploma and my communications degree.

Kelsey and Brooke enjoy going for walks in North Glenmore Park, and Brooke will never pass up an opportunity to pick up unattended socks and carry them around in her mouth. (Stephen Lubig/CBC)

I am an ambassador for Positive Exposure, a non-profit organization that uses the arts to educate the public about various medical conditions. I sit on the board of directors for the Moebius Syndrome Foundation.

I try and advocate for people that have been marginalized in society or those who are at risk of such and I educate about Moebius syndrome, in particular, whenever I can.

It is important for me to share my life experiences — both good and bad — in hopes of not only educating about disabilities and what those living with them struggle with, but also to let others know that they are not facing these struggles alone. 

Kelsey grew up with a lot of pets from a pony named Snapple to dogs, cats and rabbits. She no longer has pets of her own, so being able to spend time with Brooke means a lot to her. (Stephen Lubig/CBC)

Never judge someone based on appearance alone — we are all so much more than how we appear. A disability is not something that should be feared or misunderstood and by telling our stories, we are hoping to change the narrative and eliminate the stigma that surrounds human diversity.

See My Ability is a campaign that champions diversity and inclusion. Do you have a story about what it is like to live with a disability in Calgary? Please email to share your story.

About the Author

Kelsey Ferrill

communications assistant

Kelsey Ferrill is a communications assistant at CBC Calgary. She has always loved to write, and has received both her journalism diploma and communications degree. She has been involved in many advocacy campaigns for the rare neurological condition that she was born with called Moebius syndrome. The highlights of her advocacy work were being featured in Chatelaine magazine in 2016 and being cast on the show called You Can’t Ask That on CBC.