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Advocacy and Empowerment: Kyle Stepp’s Journey in the Limb Loss Community

Aug 24, 2023 |

Kyle Stepp

Image source: @kylestepp

In a candid conversation with Kyle Stepp, an above-knee amputee from Albuquerque, New Mexico, we delve into his remarkable journey in the limb loss community. Kyle’s journey began after a downhill mountain bike accident led to the destruction of metal implants in his leg, originally placed there at age 14 due to osteosarcoma. Since then, Kyle has not only embraced his new reality but has become a passionate advocate for amputees’ rights and access to proper prosthetics. He has actively engaged with organizations like the Amputee Coalition to create positive change and ensure that every person living with limb loss has equal opportunities for physical activity.

Kyle’s story is a testament to the power of community, resilience, and the determination to make a difference.

Advocacy and the Amputee Coalition

Kyle’s journey into advocacy started more than two years ago when he realized amputees’ challenges in accessing proper prosthetics. He initially believed it would be a straightforward process, but he quickly discovered the harsh reality of limited access. To navigate this complex landscape, he turned to the Amputee Coalition for guidance on self-advocacy.

One of his most significant achievements was collaborating with a group of passionate individuals in New Mexico. Partnered with the Amputee Coalition and the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association, the advocates helped the “So New Mexicans Can Move” campaign move forward. Together, they advocated for insurance fairness legislation to ensure equitable prosthetic access statewide. New Mexico passed legislation aimed to provide coverage for prosthetics and orthotics for physical activity, allowing every New Mexican to experience the freedom of the outdoors.

Challenging Misconceptions

Kyle highlighted one of the major misconceptions surrounding the limb loss community: the barriers to access. Many people assume that prosthetic devices for physical activity are readily available, but in reality, the process can be arduous and frustrating. Kyle emphasized that amputees are not limited to either a sedentary lifestyle or superhero-level physical feats; they are ordinary people seeking the same rights to physical activity as everyone else.

Effective Advocacy Strategies

Kyle stressed the importance of using one’s voice in advocacy. He encouraged individuals to share their unique stories because every perspective matters. By sharing personal experiences, amputees can shed light on the broken systems and work collectively toward solutions. Kyle’s advocacy efforts have shown that collaboration and collective action can bring about meaningful change. “I think one of the most beautiful things is how powerful our voices are collectively, because really it just comes down to a lack of education. What we can all do together is use our voice to help paint the picture of the broken systems that exist and then work together to really push for the solutions that we’ve all been working really hard to create.”

Advice for New Amputees

Kyle offered two valuable pieces of advice to new amputees adjusting to their new reality. Firstly, he emphasized the strength of asking for help. Seeking assistance doesn’t signify weakness; it demonstrates courage and determination. Secondly, he encouraged new amputees to lean into their community, which is crucial in providing support, mentorship, and a sense of belonging. “I look back on my past two and a half years after becoming an amputee , my life has drastically changed because of other individuals who live with limb loss and limb difference and have poured into me because I was willing to ask for help.”

Promoting Positive Body Image and Self-Esteem

Kyle discussed the importance of promoting positive body image and self-esteem within the limb loss community. He acknowledged that developing self-confidence can be challenging but recommended surrounding oneself with supportive individuals who understand the journey. Engaging in physical activities, like sports, can also be a powerful means to rebuild self-esteem and body confidence. Each person will have a different journey but “finding a vehicle for you to feel confident that you fully love yourself” is key. Having those spaces and outlets to feel like you belong is what every single person needs and deserves.

Future Initiatives

Kyle shared exciting plans for the future, including the “28 by 28” campaign, part of the “So Everybody Can Move Initiative.” This campaign aims to pass state-based policies in 28 states by the LA 28 Paralympics, promoting equitable access to prosthetics and orthotics for physical activity across the United States. Achieving this goal would be the tipping point for us to really advocate for federal reform so that there’s equitable access across the United States. “I’m doing a little bit of something to make a positive difference, whether it’s in one individual’s life or to make my life better or to make my community better.”

Shaping Perspectives

Lastly, Kyle discussed how being part of the limb loss community has shaped his perspective on life. He emphasized the community’s strength, resilience, and achievements, dispelling stereotypes and misconceptions. He noted that amputees are not defined by their limb loss but by their ability to overcome challenges and support one another. “This community is beautiful; this community is strong. This community is achieving what most people never even imagined of achieving with their bodies and the unbelievable ability.”

Kyle Stepp’s journey in the limb loss community is an inspiring example of resilience, advocacy, and community empowerment. His work with the Amputee Coalition and his dedication to creating equitable access to prosthetics highlight the transformative impact individuals can have when they come together to make a difference. Through his advocacy efforts, Kyle is not only changing lives but also challenging perceptions and promoting inclusivity, ultimately shaping a more supportive world for amputees everywhere. “For me, the finished picture for the limb loss and limb difference community is just an equitable and fair access where every single person has equal access to the resources they need to live out their human potential.”