Maria Palacios is infused with a passion for life. She is sassy, empowered, kick-ass, fearless and fabulous. She is a Goddess on Wheels both online and in real life, and she zips around in her chair on wheels faster than most people can run. She speaks with a mild and enchanting accent, using her hands and you feel blessed to be in her presence. The passion she has shines out of her like a light, and people are attracted to her, as we sat there, so many walked up to the table to speak to her. Everyone falls in love with her, and so will you.
At the age of 9 months old, Maria Palacios was diagnosed with Polio. Born in Ecuador, she is the oldest in her family, and when the diagnosis came in from the doctors, her mother was determined to find the best cure for her. She immediately took her to Columbia, Mexico, and Brazil in search of the right treatment and cure and doctors for Maria. Maria contracted Polio because she wasn’t vaccinated, because, during that time in Ecuador, kids were getting Polio from the vaccine, so her mother decided not to give her the vaccine. There are three types of Polio and Maria has one that affects the limbs and twists your body. She was born with severe scoliosis, and her spine was shaped like an S, and one of her ribs was pushed out. She had 15 surgeries on her back alone.
Maria has feeling in all her limbs, but it affects her nerves, so her muscles do not develop in her legs, and now she has constant pain and fatigue. There is no treatment, but she has learned how to take care of herself and for her it is about aging and managing the disability at the same time, and she does a beautiful job of it because she is full of energy and feels that this was meant to be for her.
Maria Palacios has had a total of 30 surgeries from the age of 4 to 22 years old. She and her mother moved to the United States in 1981, at the age of 15, so she could get treatment at Shriner’s Hospital. Maria is incredibly smart. Although she was in and out of school due to all her surgeries, and it was lonely for her, she taught herself how to read and write by the age of 4, taught herself English when she came to the United States and she loved to write, which was how she escaped from herself and liberated her mind and her body. She filled journals full of stories, poems, and thoughts. At age 17, she realized that she didn’t relate to teenagers, so she got bored with High School and got her GED.
Maria spent many years writing, waiting to become a United States Citizen, and age 22, she went to HCC and took psychology and knew that her calling was to help people. She took a mental health program that was a new curriculum, and the courses were masters level courses that were taught at the University of Houston, and she was a counselor for years. Maria Palacios has been married and divorced. She has two children. She found her path and knew she needed to share herself and her story and do good for others. She is a successful speaker, published poet and for the past seven years, she has put on the Women with Disabilities Empowerment Fair, which takes place this year on April 23.
Women With Disabilities Empowerment Fair
The Women with Disabilities Empowerment Fair, which takes place on April 23 from 12 – 6:30 pm, is in its 7th year, and Maria Palacios is not only the founder, she makes sure that every person who participates, whether they have a booth, speak or attend go free. For Maria, this is a labor of love for a community that she wants everyone to understand can do everything that an able bodied person can do. There will be 35 booths of women who are artists, authors, jewelry designers, clothing designers and more. There will be music, food, diversity, uplifted spirits, books, and workshops.
The venue is at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center located at 1475 West Gray. Maria picked this center because the entire center is accessible, and it is the only facility that is fully accessible in the city of Houston. The facility is gorgeous, and the event draws in close to 300 every single year. This year, Maria is hoping to bring in all walks of life, so that the city can see experience the empowerment and the heartbeat of this beautiful community.
The lesson behind this event?
If we want something, we have to make it happen ourselves. I had to self-publish. No one wanted to publish my book. We can’t sit there and wait for someone to knock on our door. We have to get out there and share our message and empower other people and if we have something to give, and we dare to share it and give it through the power of love that the blessings will multiply, and this is what the Empowerment Fair is about.
This fair provides women who have disabilities a voice to empower others and also to inspire the younger generation of women to become involved. This is the opportunity to see the untapped potential of this vibrant community and realize that although some of them have been isolated, they are strong, and there is support for them. This is a fantastic event to see another side of Houston that is indeed thriving and adds so much to the fabric of our city.
Maria Palacios has that Latin passion. It is in her book of poems, it is in her body language, it is in her words.
The word ‘Disability.’
In the disability community, we are embracing the word disabled again in a very strange way. Disability Pride is like Black Lives Matter. It is owning who you are. It is owning our ability and saying don’t DIS my ability. There’s nothing to be ashamed of having a disability. We are all people first, but it is all about educating people first. People with disabilities don’t forget that we people first, society forgets, so it is all about educating them and reminding them.
Disability does not discriminate
The one thing about the disability community is that it is the largest minority in the world, it is the only minority that eventually everybody will eventually join through the aging process and also the only minority that anybody can join at any given time. Disability does not discriminate. When we fight for equality or access or employment rights, we aren’t just doing it for us, but we are doing it for the future of everybody, because if it works for people with disabilities, it will work for everybody.
Maria Palacios, you are #JustVibing and the Women with Disabilities Empowerment Fair is a Houston Event on April 23 that is a must attend event for the entire city.