Photo by Anna Meassick | Ferreira wants to show the world that just because you have a disability, you can accomplish anything.

A University of Rhode Island student with Cerebral Palsy will speak at the upcoming TEDx talks about her abilities and achievements regardless of her disability

The day she received an email concerning TEDx auditions at URI, Ferreira knew she had to try out. After preparing notes, auditioning and receiving a call-back the next day, she found out that she had been selected as one of the 10 people out of 100 to give her very own 15-minute TEDx talk this upcoming February.

With this talk, Ferreira hopes to teach the audience that even with a perceived setback, it is not impossible to accomplish your goals.

“I want them to know that even with a disability, they can do anything they set their mind to,” Ferreira said. “They may do it a little differently, but in the end, they can get it done.”

In addition, she hopes to give the word “disability” a new meaning. To achieve this, she prefers to use the term “diffability,” in which she explains the “s” in disability is replaced with “ff,” creating an alternative meaning to the term. This demonstrates possessing a different ability, rather than a disadvantage, and encourages everyone to use the word in this manner.

Ferreira claims that she could not have done this without the help of her team- Erin Blanchette, communicative disorders graduate student at URI, and Gloria Figueroa, Adult Clinic Supervisor. Being a Rhode Island native, Ferreira has been attending the Speech and Hearing Center here at URI for nearly five years but has been working with Blanchette and Figueroa since her sophomore year.

Ferreira said that TEDx is only the beginning for her. With her team behind her, both Blanchette and Figueroa strongly believe that she has the potential to expand this gift into an array of inspiring events.

“I feel like her message of diversity is so critical to the University, and I really believe that it is going to change the world, I know it is,” Figueroa said.

After using different programs and techniques to help improve Ferreira’s speech, Figueroa explains how after viewing the original impromptu Sail to Prevail speech, she was blown away by the true gift possessed by Ferreira. Figueroa adamantly believes that timing played a large role in the decision to focus on public speaking, explaining, “When we found out TEDx was coming, we just knew immediately that she had to do it. It all lined up so perfectly. Even if TEDx had not come, we knew we had to take this road after hearing her first speech.”

Blanchette believes that Rachel provides an interesting insight, explaining “She is very excited to teach people about disabilities through a specific lens that only she can really talk about.”

With her supportive team behind her, Ferriera is honored to be given the opportunity to give her own TEDx talk and thrilled to continue pursuing her passion of educating others through her unique lens.

Ferreira is very involved on campus through the Student Organization Leadership Consultants and Rotaract Club and is also a member of Sail to Prevail. The Sail to Prevail organization is a non-profit run group that improves the lives of those with disabilities, by creating an atmosphere adapted to them in which they can guide their own sailboat. Having previously done an impromptu speech covering the topics of disability and inclusion for the Sail to Prevail organization, Ferreira realized that public speaking is one of her true passions.