IU East disability services coordinator shares life changing moment, childhood experiences in “The Movement”

November 14th, 2011

Traci Taylor has been an advocate for people with disabilities since her childhood.  She hopes to continue advocating through her participation in a film being released this fall, “The Movement: One Man Joins an Uprising.”

Taylor, disability services coordinator at IU East, is one of four mentor athletes featured in “The Movement” who have overcome their disabilities to find freedom through skiing. The 40-minute film is narrated by Robert Redford and Warren Miller.

As an infant, Taylor was given a 10 percent chance of surviving because she was born with Sacral Agenesis, now known as Caudal Regression.

Taylor beat the odds and not only survived, but became a voice for others with disabilities. She grew up in Los Angeles and was the face of the March of Dimes in Los Angeles County from 1976 to 1983. She attended dinners, award ceremonies, the Reading Olympics, and other events to help bring awareness to the organization.

“I have always been a proud woman with a disability. I was strengthened by my childhood experiences,” Taylor said.

Her childhood also brought her together with Warren Miller, a pioneer of action sports films, known for writing, directing and filming skiing and snowboarding movies.

Taylor remembers first meeting Miller while watching her brothers, Rob and Dave, skiing the March of Dimes Classic. She recalls Miller asking her if she wanted to ski, something she never considered she would be able to do when she agreed.

It was a life-changing moment.

“It was one of the coolest things I had ever done,” Taylor said. “I just accepted that I wasn’t going to join my brothers on the slopes,” Taylor said. “So when he (Warren Miller) offered to take me skiing, I was like, ‘What! Really!’ It was a whole new era for me.”

Warren offered to help Taylor to learn to ski. She also became one of the featured skiers in “Steep and Deep,” a film Warren and his son, Kurt Miller, were filming while Taylor was learning how to ski in Winter Park, Colo.  Kurt Miller is the executive producer of “The Movement.”

Eventually, Taylor left as the March of Dimes representative to have a normal childhood. She graduated from high school and went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Central California and her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling from California State University Fresno. For eight years, Taylor has worked with students at IU East in the Office of Student Support Services, as part of program that helps first-generation students, low-income students or students with disabilities to adjust to and to succeed in college by providing comprehensive academic assistance.

Over the years, Taylor and Warren Miller have kept in touch. About two years ago, she was contacted by Kurt Miller, as he was then forming the Make a Hero organization, and he discussed wanting to bring adaptive sports to the forefront. “I, of course, thought that it was a fabulous thing and I jumped on the bandwagon right away,” Taylor said.

Taylor traveled back to her hometown, Los Angeles, to film her interview for “The Movement.” She talks about her childhood and how skiing opened up a new world and sense of freedom.  “I had been involved in other athletic ventures but I didn’t think skiing was an option. Not until I met the Millers,” Taylor said.

Taylor attended one of the premieres of the movie in Detroit, Mich., November 12, and will attend the Hollywood premiere in early January. She said she is excited to see reactions of people from the skiing community. She is also hopeful that the movie helps to dispel the belief that those with disabilities cannot be an athlete.

“I hope it brings a general knowledge of all adaptive sports as well as beyond skiing that someone with a disability can be successful in athletic sports,” Taylor said. “You can be very successful in athletics and still have a disability.”

If there is one thing Taylor wants anyone to take away from “The Movement,” it’s to never underestimate opportunity.

“Be open to the opportunity to do things in ways that may be untraditional but are still just as effective,” Taylor said.

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