Staying Active While Advocating

Jeanette, seated in a power wheelchair, at the MIUSA office.
Jeanette pays a visit to the MIUSA office in Eugene, Oregon, 22 years after her MIUSA exchange experience.
Jeanette Lee lives for advocating, singing, and traveling – and manages to intertwine each of them in her focus on disability rights and accessibility for everyone.

Jeanette Lee has been a part of the Disability Rights Movement since its inception. Though she describes herself as shy, Jeanette’s strong voice as an activist has aided in creating a society in Australia that is constantly becoming more accessible.

During her studies in Melbourne, Jeanette was told by one of her mentors that ‘the world is not made for wheelchairs,’ and that she was not ‘being realistic’ with her situation. From this disappointment in leadership grew a greater desire for justice in the world.

In 1993, Jeanette attended the MIUSA Professional South East Asia Exchange Program to the USA. It was here that she found pride in the disability movement.

When asked about what part of the program was the most empowering, Jeannette said, “There were quite a few. There was something about sharing that sense of solidarity and celebrating victories that was empowering.”

Since that trip, Jeannette has been a leading voice in the Disability Rights Movement in Melbourne. From calling for a change in the height of the MYKI public transportation ticketing system, to holding the Melbourne City Council accountable to the 1993 Disability Discrimination Act, she has progressed accessibility in her area for years.

Currently, Jeannette continues to work for Melbourne based Yooralla, a disability rights organization focused on empowerment and opportunities for people with disabilities. Moving forward, she says she wants to help meet the need for counseling in the area of disability. “There is a lot of grief and people are told to just keep going, but they do not get a chance to really sort through the issues.”

In addition to her work, Jeanette sings in a choir, sharing, “It’s a good release and being able to express. It’s a good feeling when singing and making a big sound all together. This choir is good too in that it is a social justice based choir. We raise money for the homeless and refugees as well.” She also acts in and is the former president of her local community theatre, loves to travel, and is thrilled to be back on the road in her new accessible car!

Today she loves to sing, travel, and organize around the issues that need the most attention for the community. Though she has been doubted and discouraged throughout her life, Jeannette Lee continues to serve as a leader and a role model in the Disability Rights movement.