It would have been easy for Tayloure Richardson ’15 (Criminology) to succumb to the disadvantage she was given in life.
Born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare genetic disorder that makes bones brittle, Richardson said she came to California State University, Northridge with only two options.
“In high school it was a much smaller environment, but coming to CSUN with thousands of students, you either sink or you float,” Richardson said.
Richardson chose the latter. CSUN opened a host of doors for the South Los Angeles native, including volunteer opportunities, networking and the tools needed to help others.
But perhaps most importantly, the university gave her a sense of belief in herself. That confidence poured out this year when Richardson took part in — and won — the 2017 Ms. Wheelchair California pageant in Long Beach.
“CSUN helped me become more comfortable in my own skin,” Richardson said. “As someone with a disability, people will look at you with pity and want to speak for you. I’ve become more vocal, outspoken and confident.”
The Ms. Wheelchair California pageant aims to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman to represent those living with disabilities. The Ms. Wheelchair California website [Hyperlink: https://www.mswheelchaircaliforniafoundation.org/] states that the competition isn’t a beauty pageant, but a competition based on advocacy, achievement, communication and presentation.
“I’ve always wanted to be in a pageant, but I never thought it would happen,” Richardson said. “I was shocked after I heard that I won. Now I have a huge responsibility and would definitely like to mentor young girls and women who are serious about entering the competition.”
Away from the stage, Richardson has dedicated much of her time to helping others. Through CSUN, Richardson has been able to volunteer at Operation Confidence, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans who suffer from physical or mental disabilities, homelessness and more.
“My counselor [at CSUN] asked if I wanted to do some volunteer work and I never say ‘no’ to anything because any opportunity is an opportunity to learn and grow,” Richardson said. “I have an uncle who was in Vietnam and I didn’t have the understanding when I was younger what was going on with him since he suffered from PTSD. Having the educational background from CSUN and going forward with graduate school [at USC], I understand these types of situations better.”
To Richardson, who also works as an instructor at the Independent Living Center of Southern California in Lancaster, helping others with disabilities is a way for her to provide a positive outlook, encouragement and motivation to others.
“I want to share with people that a lot of times things could be worse,” Richardson said. “I want those with disabilities to be able to fend for themselves, be successful and reach the goals set in place for them.”
As an instructor, Richardson assists those with disabilities accomplish everyday tasks, such as applying for a job, enrolling in school or using Paratransit, a nonprofit that provides transportation to the disabled.
With plans of completing her master’s degree in social work from USC next spring and eventually earning her doctorate, Richardson’s goal is to create a nonprofit for young girls with disabilities. She also plans to keep helping war veterans who suffer from mental illness by helping them look for jobs and assisting in the transition from military to civilian life.
“I know that my disability doesn’t disable me from doing things,” she said. “It doesn’t disable me from being successful or reaching my goals. There’s just other barriers I have to continue to knock down.”