I am who I am, because I’m all that I am

My story with spina bifida


Royal Purple Graphic Designer Aaron Holliday

My name is Aaron Holliday, and I’m a 21-year-old  senior at UW-Whitewater studying graphic design from Homewood, Illinois. Growing up as a person with a disability has definitely been a unique experience. I myself actually rather enjoy my life and I really can’t imagine my life any different, although it may not always be easy and fun in some respects. However, on the other hand it can sometimes be kind of cool to have a disability. Just like anything else in life, when life gives you challenges, either you dwell on the negatives or you can look on the positives, which is the side I always look on within my life. For example, because of my disability, I’ve experienced so many cool things like playing adaptive sports: wheelchair basketball, wheelchair softball, sled hockey and wheelchair track—the last of which actually resulted in me becoming practically “a high school legend” as the first person to play adaptive sports. It was the points achieved from my wheelchair track races combined with the able-bodied event points with the rest of the track team that made us 2017 Boys Track & Field Combined State Champions. 

For another point which I might say as “crucial” in this case: if not for living my life with spina bifida, I likely wouldn’t be at UW-Whitewater, as my disability was more or less the main basis behind how/why I initially learned of the campus and later chose to attend college here. I actually came up here to UW-Whitewater to play in one of our scheduled tournaments, which introduced me to the campus. And so years later when it came finally time to determine where I would pursue my career interest in graphic design, my absolute top choice was UW-Whitewater for main reasons like: 

  1. Wanting to be somewhat independent from home and trying to gradually learn more and more about doing certain things for myself. I honestly felt like I wouldn’t get much out of going to school somewhere closer to home, as I felt that part of the overall college experience is being able to go out and experience new environments and experiences. 
  2. I had some prior student connections at the school should I ever be in need of some type of advice/help in my time here as a student. I was/am friends with multiple people on the UW-W wheelchair basketball team who have since graduated. 
  3. And lastly, I of course knew about UW-Whitewater’s good reputation for students with disabilities. 

I definitely made the right decision choosing UW-Whitewater as my college to attend these last four years, and I certainly enjoy the continued feeling of having a good level of independence from home while at the same time being only about two and a half hours away. It allows me the option of a short trip if I need anything or want to hang out with friends or my girlfriend who also has spina bifida. There are a lot of things I’ve enjoyed here about campus life these last four years. I have enjoyed being able to live in the dorms, which has been great. I also like being able to get involved in the organizations like UW-W Chess Club, and most recently becoming the graphic designer for the Royal Purple. And so while there are still a few speedbumps along the way for me to overcome, I wouldn’t trade a minute of my time at UW-Whitewater, just as I also wouldn’t ever trade a minute of my life living with a disability. People often ask me “If you could change your life to be without spina bifida, would you?” And I always answer “No. I am who I am because I’m all that I am.”