Featured Voices: Lucy Meyer
Recent high school graduate, UNICEF and Special Olympics spokesperson, and five-time gold medalist in swimming Lucy Meyer was born with cerebral palsy as a result of a lack of oxygen for five minutes at birth. The doctors thought she would never sit up or swallow. But doctors can be wrong, and Lucy is proof. Her CP impacts her eyes, speech, left hand, and right heel. School was challenging for Lucy because her eyes didn’t always work the way she wanted them to. In 2019, during her graduation from Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, she gave a speech in front of an audience of 5,000 at the Greek Theatre and received a standing ovation. Ms. Yolanda, her 1:1 aide of 8 years, received a special thank you as she stood by her side, guiding Lucy with her reading. Hamilton is an all-inclusive school, and Lucy wishes the world was more like “Hami.”
Lucy started working with UNICEF in 2011 by trick-or-treating on their behalf. Two years later, she created a fund to assist children with disabilities in developing countries. The fund has raised over $100,000. Then–UNICEF president and CEO Caryl Stern said, “Lucy Meyer is a powerful example of how children with disabilities are more than capable of overcoming barriers.“
Lucy’s motivation stems from an emotional place. “It makes me sad when kids cannot go to school, cannot play sports, and cannot do things that kids like to do,” Lucy said when she was 14. That same year, she visited senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., and California to advocate on behalf of children with disabilities. She was a featured presenter at UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report on children with disabilities. During her visit to D.C., Lucy shared her personal experiences when engaging with lawmakers to encourage the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Lucy’s love of sports, including tennis, soccer, surfing, and swimming, led to her participation in the Special Olympics, where she has been awarded five gold medals in swimming. Lucy feels that the organization destigmatizes disability and encourages inclusion. In 2015, the Special Olympics and UNICEF formed a partnership, and Team Lucy Meyer emerged. Team Lucy Meyer addresses inclusive play for children with and without disabilities (as well as healthcare) in countries including Brazil, Peru, Uganda, Jamaica, Paraguay, Mexico, Nicaragua, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Zambia, and Montenegro.
In a recent article Lucy wrote for Teen Vogue, she says her favorite places to speak are schools: “Often kids don’t know what it’s like to have disabilities. They have great questions. They really get it that while everyone has differences, we all like many of the same things.”