Natchioches, LA (KMSS) — Cassidy Brooke Byles’ personal experience living with a spinal cord injury opened her eyes to the needs of individuals with disabilities. The Northwestern State University senior will now be able to help disabled citizens as a member of the Louisiana Rehabilitation Council. Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed Byles to the council that analyzes and reviews the state rehabilitation program.
“The appointment is an opportunity for me to help be an advocate for people with disabilities,” Byles said. “The contribution I will make is being a voice for the many disabled people who receive Louisiana Rehabilitation Services and bringing up some concerns that the consumers have.”
The Louisiana Rehabilitation Council is comprised of 25 gubernatorial appointments, including the director of the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services and one vocational rehabilitation counselor, serving as non-voting members. The remaining 23 voting members include 12 members representing a cross section of individuals with physical, cognitive, sensory and mental disabilities; representatives of individuals with disabilities who have difficulty representing themselves; and current or former applicants for, or recipients of, vocational rehabilitation services. One representative of the state educational agency responsible for the public education of students with disabilities who are eligible to receive services under 29 U.S.C.A. 720 and part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; and One representative of the directors of a project carried out under 121 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998.
Byles will graduate from Northwestern State in December with a degree in history and a minor in political science. She is an alumna of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority and an honor student. She is the daughter of Kathy Scaife and Jeffrey Price. Her younger sister Kaitlin is a cystic fibrosis patient who underwent a lung transplant last year and is currently awaiting another.
Byles’ injury in a traffic accident in 2007 and the difficulties her mother faced in obtaining services for her created a desire to help others. Byles is a C4/C5 tetraplegic and confined to a wheelchair.
“After living with a spinal cord injury for almost six years and seeing what people go through and what their family goes through fueled me,” Byles said. “People who are disabled are normal people too, but are treated differently and usually not in a good way. Until recently there were no laws or resources to go by to advocate or make things and places accessible or create opportunities. What fueled me was seeing people accept things or not know they have options because they didn't have someone who was on their side and able to keep pushing for changes.”
Byles praised her mother Kathy for her tremendous care and support and her role in putting services in place to help with Byles’ rehabilitation.
“She's still doing that today and her entire adult life has been devoted to her kids because services and resources in Louisiana for people with disabilities or illnesses like Kaitlin’s are not easy to find and most people don’t know about them,” Byles said.
Services and resources in Louisiana are not easy to find because they are not as known about a other resources.
She also credited her health providers at TIRR Memorial Hermann and the specialized medical teams that she and her sister have in Houston not only for treatment but also in finding resources and forming lifelong relationships.
After graduation, Byles plans to apply to law school and go into politics.