35th Anniversary Edition

It’s the Personal Stories I Remember Most


Vicki Gaylord was managing editor of Impact from 1988 until her retirement in 2020.

An older woman with curly hair in a blue shirt in front of a green background.

Vicki Gaylord.

During my 30-plus years as managing editor of Impact, I had the privilege of working with more than 1,000 individuals from around the world who authored its articles. Reflecting on those articles today, one of the things that especially stands out for me is the courage of the authors who told their personal stories to thousands of strangers through the pages of Impact.

I think of the self-advocates who wrote of their experiences living in state institutions, and of becoming leaders in the movement to close those institutions, making it possible for people with disabilities to have lives of their choosing in the community. I think of the parents who shared stories of their struggles with schools over the inclusion of their children with disabilities in classrooms alongside nondisabled peers, and of their advocacy that changed local practices and policies so that their children truly belonged and succeeded. I remember the direct support professionals who wrote honestly about the economic, mental, and physical challenges they faced working long hours for little pay, and who also told their stories of successfully advocating for changes in their profession. I recall – and particularly admire – those women and men who were willing, in the pages of Impact, to break the societal silence about being sexually assaulted, and about being excluded from the sexuality education their nondisabled peers received as young people. I also admire them for sharing their joyful stories of finding romance, love, marriage, and parenthood for themselves as they celebrated a part of their lives that some around them ignored or wished away. I think of the siblings of people with disabilities who were willing to speak their truth about often feeling that they shouldn’t “bother anyone” with their wants and needs, and who were willing to name out loud the support they needed for their often-demanding lifelong sibling roles. And I think of the stories by people with disabilities navigating life at the intersections of disability, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation who encountered multiple “isms” and were teaching others to think about those issues in new ways.

A black and white image of the woman above at a younger age.


These are just some of the hundreds of personal stories that have been the centerpiece of Impact. They have grounded the research, best practice, and visioning articles within each issue in the lived realities of people with disabilities. The stories have found their way into expected and unexpected settings. For instance, the Impact on violence against women with disabilities was included in a resource guide on sexual and domestic violence developed for the U.S. Air Force and placed on every base worldwide. An issue on inclusive education was distributed by a mom at her local school board meeting as she advocated for her child’s education rights. The Impact on the justice system and people with disabilities was handed out around a wilderness campfire in Alaska to participants at a weekend retreat on people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; the issue was also promoted in the newsletter of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. And the personal stories in Impact have, for 35 years, given readers the opportunity to say “this, too, has been my experience,” offering support and inspiration to move forward into new realities.

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