By Bryan Dooley
With a name like Bryan Dooley, you can probably guess that I’m Irish. Bryan is a Celtic word meaning strength and nobility or high. I’m going to stick with strength and nobility, just in case my mom is reading this. My mother chose my name because I would need strength. She spelled it less commonly, so I could stand out from other people named Brian. At least my name stands out, even if I don’t actually stand.
I’ve always been eager. I was born two months early, making my debut in Forsyth Hospital in 1990. My family jokes that I wanted to beat my cousins, so I could be the oldest of the second wave. We are a very large family, so we have to refer to ourselves in waves. My early entrance into this world may have caused me to be “extra special” in the form of having special needs. I was born with Cerebral Palsy. The doctors still aren’t sure what causes it, but I like to think that’s a good thing. It doesn’t really matter how I got it. I have it and society and I have to deal with it. If this way of looking at disability is new or surprising to you, you should know that I have been a passionate disability advocate since I came out of the womb.
I’ve spent the vast majority of my life advocating right here in Winston. I also have connections to Chapel Hill and Salisbury, but consider Winston my home.
My column, Observations From Below, was spawned from compromise. Writing has always been my voice. I have a speech disability, and it is sometimes hard for me to verbally communicate, so speeches were out. I had things to say and didn’t have a good medium to say them with, so I took an Introduction to Journalism class as an elective in high school. The next opportunity to register for classes rolled around and I wanted to get academic credit for writing for the school newspaper. My teacher took me aside and said she didn’t think I could participate in all the newspaper activities, so to make a point, I sent her a column, which I wrote over Christmas break. She loved it and my column was born.
One of the cool things of having a column and not having the class was that it allowed me to write freely. I was given no limitations and very little editing. In hindsight, they probably wished I had been in the class, so I could have helped more around the paper. That was at least seven years ago and they haven’t been able to shut me up since.
After high school, I studied as much Journalism at Guilford College as I could. The ironic thing about Guilford is there were only two journalism classes offered, but they have one of the best small college newspapers in the country, called the Guilfordian. I started out as a lowly Staff Writer for the Guilfordian and after two years ended up in one of the most important positions on the editorial staff. I was a Senior Writer and served as Diversity Coordinator, covering important events like the presidential search. I also studied Changing the World in a unique program at Guilford called Principled Problem Solving Scholars, a program dedicated to engaging basic principles such as diversity or community in addressing social problems.
Sitting in a wheelchair for most of my life has given me a unique perspective on the world. In my column, I hope to marry these three sides of my experience. I’m always looking up, both figuratively and literally.
That’s just how I roll.