“I cannot ever say I know exactly how someone feels, but I can say that everyone has the ability to contribute and be productive,” Robles said. “They, like myself, have the opportunity to have children, have a relationship, a job and, for many, a good quality of life.”
In an effort to share this message, Robles founded Thisabled, LLC in 2004. The for-profit corporation is the parent company to two online communities that provide useful information, resources and a sense of community in hopes of empowering people with disabilities.
“I started thisabled.com because I believed there wasn’t enough information on real people with disabilities,” says Robles, who resides in New Jersey with his wife and daughter. “I thought that if someone with a disability owned the medium they would be able to tell their story their way. In it, we feature people with disabilities as well as individuals who go out of their way to promote and help our cause.”
In 2006 Robles created a sister site, thisablednation.com, to include more voices from the community. “Thisablednation.com is slightly different because it also features a forum and lets anyone post a blog —with prior approval of course. It is more consumer-friendly and can offer an amazing amount of information on many disability issues,” Robles said, adding, “Our forums feature information on transportation, employment, scholarships and even a do-it-yourself section.”
“The feedback from both websites has been great,” Robles says.
Robles graduated from Rutgers University and Seton Hall Law School. He later became deputy director of the NJ Division of Disability Services, a position he held until March 2010. Aside from serving on the boards of Canine Companions for Independence and Project Freedom, a nonprofit organization that develops and operates barrier-free housing, his focus now is overseeing Thisabled, LLC.
When he was first injured, Robles had a tough time adjusting. “It was difficult to go from doing everything for yourself to often having to depend on others,” he says. However, Robles didn’t let his physical limitations get him down, and he now tries to inspire those with newly acquired spinal cord injuries. “I assist them with finding resources and motivate them as much as possible to maintain a positive, healthy attitude.”
He also tells them that their lives will get better and that there may even be a cure someday. “As many people with spinal cord injuries know, there is a great deal of research going on, which may one day make spinal cord injuries curable. However, it is important to realize that we are here now and that every moment that passes by is one you never get back.”