Mya Pol recalls being full of energy and "super rambunctious" as a child. "I would literally run laps around the house," she told TODAY's Sheinelle Jones.
But as she got older, Pol said she began to experience puzzling symptoms, which hit a peak in her sophomore year of college. At first, she shrugged it off as a side effect of her life as a student.
But "the weakness and fatigue continued to get worse until it reached a point where I was collapsing walking back from my classes," she said.
Pol was diagnosed with a genetic condition, as well as a probable neurological disorder, that made it necessary for her to use a wheelchair. She soon realized how much more challenging it was for her to navigate the world. So Pol, who calls herself an "accidental activist," decided to join TikTok to shed light on the challenges that people with disabilities encounter regularly.
"I pride myself in being positive and searching for joy wherever I can," Pol said. "And regardless of what life throws at me, I want to roll with it."
She also shares TikTok videos that show some of the challenges she encounters as a wheelchair user, like the curbs outside of her school's dining hall, as well as the little changes that make environments more accessible, such as the doorstop-like devices in her dorm room and campus bathroom, which people may not realize can be adjusted to make the doors close more slowly.
"A lot of them are really tight, which makes the door extremely heavy, which reduces access for people with strength issues, with pain issues, like arthritis or wheelchair users," she explained. Pol made a post about the doorstop, showing that it has adjustable settings. She received hundreds of positive comments, including from some people who were ready to make their own spaces more accessible.
At times, Pol told TODAY, she can feel frustrated and invisible. "To know that there’s a world out there that chooses to exclude you, that chooses to not make the necessary changes to create systems that can support you, is soul-crushing," she said. "To know that for the rest of my life, I’m going to be looking at tens of thousands of dollars extra for anything that I want, is frustrating, soul-crushing and heartbreaking — especially when I know it doesn’t have to be this way."
But the response to her TikTok videos has been encouraging, and she wants her viewers to know that "disability is not a bad word." No one is guaranteed "ableness," she said. "You can become disabled at any point in time — without any warning... So it’s better for everyone to make better systems to support disability."