I met one of my best friends freshmen year of college at the University of Wisconsin -Whitewater. I had all ready been living in the dorms for a week because of Marching Band and she was moving in a few days early. She had decided to stroll through the halls of our dorm and introduce herself to everyone on the floor. I was in my dorm doing something on my computer (probably enjoying the high speed DSL internet, it was Fall of 2000 it was a very big deal!) Anyway, she popped herself into my dorm room to say hi. I briefly turned my head and said hi back and that is how we met.
Flash-forward a few days later and I see her in the hall and notice something I hadn’t on our first encounter, it was the fact she used a power wheelchair. Now some say I was just not observant in that first meeting, I say that it was because she was standing up in her chair because she was nervous and therefore did not see the chair only a person standing in my doorway. In either case, this relationship has informed and shaped my understanding of Disability Rights, one I never realized was under-represented and not really talked about, this needs to change!
A few days ago she called me. She was feeling down and out, that she couldn’t do anything for herself, that she asked for too much help, that her life wasn’t how she thought it should be. I told her she was crazy. That she does tons of things for herself, that yes she does need help but not because she doesn’t want to do them for herself but that because of her physical limitation she can’t do it. That asking for help isn’t wrong, that when she does ask for help making sure her needs are met.
I know she is not alone. She is among a growing number of people with physical, mental, developmental, emotional disabilities that are working adults, that strive for the same things that those who do not have these disabilities have. Our laws and rules, however, have not caught up to them, our social service programs have not caught up to them. This needs to change. I know many in the disability community are afraid that if we change it for this growing few that they won’t have their needs met. I say no. We need to recognize that just like any minority this community is diverse and that there is not an “one size fits all” solution. We need to finds ways that these working adults can work full time and still get the social services they need, without taking away from those who can not work for one reason or another. We need to not penalize those with disabilities who can make decisions for themselves.
I could go on and on but it would only point out more examples. I think you get the point. This community is diverse we need to create solutions that work for all in this community.
Thanks for reading about my concerns.
Peace, Love, Joy.