Advocacy spotlight: ‘Never give up on yourself’

Tyrone, wearing Ohio State sweatshirt and hat, sitting in wheelchair smiling

For too long, Tyrone Gladney says, he kept to his comfort zone. He avoided big risks, but he wasn’t having much fun.

“I was sick, I was depressed, I wasn’t happy,” Gladney said. “I had high blood pressure, headaches, was eating all the wrong foods.”

When he decided to make some changes, his providers – whom Gladney says are more like family – were ready to lend all the support he needed. “He wanted to lose weight, so staff assisted him in that journey,” said Cher Jallow of Tender Loving Care, a small disability-services company.

Gladney worked closely with a fitness-minded staff member and changed his diet. He boxes, bicycles, does pushups and plays basketball. “Tyrone has cerebral palsy, decreased motor skills in his hands and feet, and he cannot walk well, but he’s a fighter,” Jallow said. “He’s my inspiration. He has a great personality.”

Gladney, 42, also is a long-time employee of Safelite AutoGlass and has an adult son who is in college and doing well. Gladney feels good and says he no longer needs blood-pressure medicine:

Committing to new habits and activities can be tough for many of us. What’s your advice to others, especially people with disabilities?

You have to believe you can change, that you can do it. You’ve got to love yourself enough. Also, never give up on yourself.

Having the right provider probably makes a big difference, too.

Cher fights for you. She’ll go to war for you. I do so many things now – I go to restaurants, travel, I went to the ocean for the first time a couple months ago. Cher pulled me right out of my comfort zone. That saved me.

Your job as a customer-service representative requires you to be on the phone quite a bit. How have you handled that challenge?

At first, I got frustrated a lot. Then I learned some techniques – I slowed down, and it got easier. I have a speech impediment, but I take the most calls. Sometimes people are jerks, but that’s on them.

You’re also a big sports fan and love the Buckeyes.

Definitely. I play basketball; football is probably my favorite to watch. I have the adaptive bike, and I want to do at least 20 miles this week.

It’s important to look on the bright side, you say. Even when it comes to parking lots.

When I see an accessible space, I’m like, let’s go! And at Disney World? We don’t have to wait at the end of the line for rides. Bam!