(WKBN) – A Valley native has been working as a stand-up comic since his freshman year of high school. He uses his comedy to teach people about and advocate for the disabled community.

“We’re uncomfortable by the things that we don’t understand and the best way to get over it is just confronting it,” said comedian Matt O’Nesti, of Boardman.

O’Nesti explained what guides his stand-up comedy. He has been wheelchair-bound since the age of two and has spinal muscular atrophy type II. However, he doesn’t let that stop him.

“It gave me this freedom, this freedom of expression to just sorta deal with the obvious problems that I go through being disabled and in a wheelchair. Gave me a platform to talk about it,” O’Nesti said.

He not only does stand-up comedy to get the conversation started about the disabled, but he recently became a board member of Disability Rights Ohio.

O’Nesti said some issues the disabled community faces are too big and complex to be used as part of his act.

“You can’t confront every single issue on stage,” he said. “On stage, my end goal is to get a laugh, it’s not to do a TED talk.”

O’Nesti said Disability Rights Ohio’s sole concern is advocating for the disabled community. So, he’s happy to be a part of it and according to the group’s executive director, Kerstin Sjoberg, they’re excited to have O’Nesti’s fresh input.

“Newer members like Matt are coming on to the board and they’re bringing new perspectives from other areas of the state, like Youngstown, which we didn’t have a board member from there before. They’re bringing different life experiences like Matt’s experience as a comedian,” Sjoberg said.

“When I was unable to be an advocate for myself, I had parents who were really willing to get down in the weeds and try to solve these issues. It’s why I’m trying to take this seriously now,” O’Nesti said.

O’Nesti added that he is glad he can advocate for himself and others.