Disabled children advocate Natalie Weaver from Cornelius, North Carolina, is aware of the cruel realities of discrimination by internet trolls all too well.
When a proposed policy change to Medicaid in her state threatened the well-being of her disabled daughter, Weaver became an active spokesperson.
Weaver's 9-year-old daughter Sophia suffers from Rett syndrome - a neurological disability affecting speech and basic motor functions like walking, eating, and breathing.
Sophia also suffers from an undiagnosed syndrome that causes facial disfigurement and deformities to her hands and feet.
"She's had 22 surgeries," Weaver told CNN.
"She has a feeding tube. A colostomy bag. She has seizures and choking spells because of both the deformities and the Rett syndrome."
Natalie Weaver's daughter Sophia has Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that impairs brain development. A parti… https://t.co/272GeBJGXX— CNN (@CNN)1518044839.0
Frustrated over the impending health reform in her home state, Weaver went public about her daughter's health conditions online.
That's when the mother began receiving hate messages from trolls, telling her she'd be better off by "killing her child."
"People, they seek you out and want to hurt you."
"There are people who go out of their way to make sure you see their cruelty. I get people telling me to kill my child, to put her out of her misery."
But the worst message came from a troll who exploited a picture of Sophia in a tweet to encourage other parents to abort fetuses with disabilities.
"It is okay to think that every child matters however a lot of them do not hence the amnio test which should be a mandatory test and if it proves negative and the woman does not want to abort then all bills accrued after that is on her and the father."
Weaver was appalled and asked for her friends and followers to track down the troll and report the tweet.
Eventually, Twitter suspended the offending poster.
Thank you @TwitterSupport & @jack for listening! The account that was using my daughter's image has been suspended!… https://t.co/3X1IZmmGal— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1516665112.0
But not everything was fully resolved.
The form users fill out on Twitter to report violations does not include a section for disability discrimination.
"Twitter needs to add people with disabilities as a category in their violation reporting. Otherwise people don't know the appropriate category to select for hate towards people with disabilities."
So Weaver took matters into her own hands to respond to the ignorance and the negativity inflicted on her daughter.
She introduced the world to Sophia so people could get acquainted with the person behind the face.
"Get to know Sophia in this Thread," Weaver tweeted, with a picture of her little girl.
"I realize that I have to share a lot of the bad things that go along with Sophia's conditions and fighting for her life, but today I'd like to share who Sophia really is."
Get to know Sophia in this Thread: I realize that I have to share a lot of the bad things that go along with Sophia… https://t.co/vNTlLWXzcG— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1510761237.0
Her all-time favorite color is Green! Sometimes she can even say Green. She loves all types of music and will pat h… https://t.co/SvcYiYMx23— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1510761286.0
She is the reason I started advocating almost 2 years ago. She is the reason I was strong enough (with help from ot… https://t.co/BV1jqSkH6a— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1510761333.0
She can wash away your pain and fears in an instant, just by holding her. https://t.co/0MXwQM5uVg— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1510761378.0
She is a major daddy’s girl! She laughs all the time and has sweet dimples under her eyes when she smiles. https://t.co/7KM1IRblFX— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1510761408.0
Sophia has a younger brother and sister, named Alex and Lyla. They are growing up knowing compassion, unconditional… https://t.co/kCN6tu7O8X— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1510761459.0
Sophia undergoes routine surgical procedures and endures a lot of pain.
But in spite of it all, Weaver says her daughter remains a light in the family through her strength and courage.
Though Sophia experiences pain and challenges every day, she laughs and smiles in between those moments. She’s had… https://t.co/i5X2xwnSHf— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1510761492.0
"I think many times, people don't even view Sophia as a person," Weaver told CNN.
"I know it happens with other people with disabilities. And people view her as a disability, but I just want them to look at her as my child."
She has helped me become the person I was always meant to be. She has pushed me to face all my fears and I’m better… https://t.co/TSkzNqdVxQ— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1510761549.0
Though we have to deal with a lot of pain and challenges in our life, we know the true meaning of happiness and liv… https://t.co/oF4RazJPqg— Natalie Weaver (@Natalie Weaver)1510761594.0