CSUMB’s Micah James sees Disability Pride Month as a chance for inspiration

Micah James

Micah James, left, meets with a student during Transfer Orientation. | Photo by Brent Dundore Arias

June 26, 2024

By Mark Muckenfuss

Micah James came to the Monterey area with a purpose: to be with his partner and to land the job of his dreams.

“When I moved here, it was my 100-percent goal to work for Cal State Monterey Bay,” said James. 

In August 2023, not long after the move, he was hired by the Student Disability and Accessibility Center as an accessibility assets and note-taking coordinator. His recent promotion to accommodations coordinator is the latest step on an upward trajectory that has left him feeling more empowered than ever. 

James, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for mobility, said he wants to help bring that same sense of empowerment to others. Disability Pride Month, which begins July 1, is a good springboard for generating awareness to help make that happen, he said. 

“Disability Pride Month happens to be the same month as my birthday,” James said. “I don’t want to say I do anything differently, but I acknowledge it and I make sure all the people around me acknowledge it. Disability pride is really every day for me.”

Bringing attention to the issue is important, he said, because there are not only disabled students who need to be connected to services but there are also students who may not recognize they qualify for support. 

Many disabilities, he said, are invisible, even to the people who have them.

“I’ve had students say, ‘I didn’t even know that was a disability,’” he said, citing such examples as those with dietary needs that might require a special meal plan or students that may have different learning disabilities, such as ADHD. 

James’ job is to help identify students with needs and connect them with the appropriate services, whether that be academic support, mobility assistance or help with daily living tasks. 

“I have a team of people that really are extraordinary,” he said. “They’re really supportive and willing to help out.”

James feels he may have had too much help for much of his life. His family, he said, was overprotective. It took being immersed in the college environment of San Jose State before he began to feel independent. 

He had earned an associate degree in psychology, but at San Jose he majored in radio/television/film. He hosted a four-hour electronic music radio show. 

“I was a DJ,” he said. “They called me the Roll Dog.”

He graduated but ran into barriers when he went to apply for on-air radio jobs. 

“I faced a lot of discrimination because of my disability,” he said. “That got me out of wanting to do radio and into wanting to help the disabled community instead.”
He got involved with a non-profit agency as a mobility travel trainer, helping disabled people navigate private and public transit options. Working remotely for the same outfit during the COVID-19 pandemic, he met his partner, who lived in Monterey, on a Zoom call. James was living in Livermore, and after dealing with the challenges of traveling to Monterey – a $100 Uber ride both ways – for a while, he decided to relocate to the area. 

“I have really flourished here,” James said. “I’m able to navigate and figure stuff out on my own.”

He hopes to help others do the same. One thing that helps in the process is lining up resources before arriving on campus.

“We’re always trying to encourage students to get established with us early, even before they come here,” he said. “If they get everything established beforehand, it makes it easier for us to help them when they start.”

It’s a good start toward realizing the kind of success James feels he has found.

“I’m literally finding my voice here,” he said. “I’m living my dream.”