Ability Now

Ability Now is a day program for people with disabilities.  It used to be called the CP Center. Steve and I were hired to do a serious of five presentations to motivate and inspire the participants.  The people who attend Ability Now choose to be called participants instead of being called clients or patients.


Some of the topics that we are speaking about our experiences with having CP, independent living skills, how to deal with attendants, my experiences at UC Berkeley, etc…  Since Steve has a black belt in Martial Arts, he will be doing a presentation on Martial Arts and self-defense. I will be also talk about communication skills and having an art business.  


The first few presentations were successful.  Steve and I are speaking to 50-80 participants each time.  So far they have had a million questions. We had a few questions about independent living skills, how we overcame our disability, how to deal with ignorant individuals and the negativity, etc... After our first presentation was over people kept circling around us asking us even more questions. Our presentation time was over an hour, but Steve and I ended up talking to them for 2 hours. They literally blocked us in. Lol. 


We hope after our presentations, the participants will be more motivated and inspire to achieve their goals and dreams.

Here are some photos  short video clips of our first presentation







Hi, I am Vanessa Castro, and I am super excited to be here and talk to you today, and let you get to know me.  Just like most of you, I have cerebral palsy due to birth complications. I use a power wheelchair and a communication device as you can see.  When I am at home, I don’t stay in my wheelchair. I get down on the floor and walk around on my knees, or sit on the floor to work on my computer and do my art.  Being out of my wheelchair is just more comfortable for me, and I get more things done having room to move around.


When I was growing up, I was encouraged and taught to not let my disability prevent me from what I want to do.  Before I had a talker, I had a picture board where I pointed to pictures. For example, if I wanted a drink of water, I pointed to the picture of a cup.  But I wanted more. With the help of my then speech therapist, Marilyn, I was able to get a computerized communication device. I had no idea how to use it or what to do with it, but I was persistent and motivated to learn more.  Not only did Marilyn teach me how to use my first talker, she taught me how to ask questions, how to tell people what I want and need. And how to start conversations and keep them going. Working with Marilyn definitely changed my life, and she gave me the confidence to use my talker to show my personality, and that was the beginning of a whole new world for me.


I graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in education.  I worked at Center for Independent Living in Berkeley for over a year as an Independent Living Skills Instructor.  I worked with clients on how to get and hire attendants. How to fire them. How to manage money when they go shopping.  I also worked for the San Francisco Unified School District working with teenagers with disabilities and teaching them how to use their talkers.  I enjoy teaching, but after these jobs ended I couldn’t find another one. I would apply for jobs and go on interviews, but once they saw my wheelchair and talker, I knew they were not going to hire me.  There were times when it felt like having a bachelor’s degree from one of the top universities in the country didn’t mean anything. I spent most of my time drawing and painting. Then one day a friend suggested I start my own art business.   And that - - I did !!! I started with greeting cards, calendars, prints and posters and sold them. Then I moved on to drawings and paintings on canvas which I sell in various fairs and art shows all over the Bay Area. I also have paintings currently on exhibit at some galleries. After ten years of having my own business, I’ve written, illustrated, and self published 3 children’s books. My goal is to educate kids about different disabilities through my art and books.  A lot of my art has disability themes. For instance, I did a couple paintings of Wonder Woman in a wheelchair and I painted people with crutches. With my paintings of Wonder Woman and other superheroes in wheelchairs, I want to show the world that even though someone has a disability, he or she has their own unique super powers.


Steve and I will be coming here to hopefully motivate and inspire all of you.  From my own experience, even with disability, there’s nothing that you cannot do if you put your mind to it.   It’s hard work and sometimes very frustrating, but it’s a good feeling when you accomplish something. You just need to have confidence in yourself.  Feel free to ask any questions.