My husband and I had the pleasure of having friends spend a week with us recently and naturally we planned many activities for the children to enjoy. Let me tell you up front it was a week blanketed by many frustrations due to the blatant lack of awareness businesses have toward people with mobility needs. My emotions were all over the spectrum and the hot tears of anger welled up in my eyes not wanting my cheeks to be wet for our guests to see.
So my first article for The Mobility Resource is focused on creating awareness among parents, educators and the general public of the characteristics, needs, educational requirements and challenges of the disabled to support the development and funding of programs for the disabled and act upon them; nor ignore the support already in place.
We need to act upon pertinent legislation, disseminating high quality information about local, state and federal programs. Our greatest strength lies in combining forces and working as an industry to promote the ADA in our communities and establish a number of committees to study various areas of concern to people with disabilities. The task we have before us is not an easy one; keeping abreast of current regulations, dealing with changing attitudes, obtaining necessary continuing education and providing the best possible opportunities for disabled citizens. And I do mean first class citizens, not second class because a disability prevails. I urge you to join to facethese challenges and recognize that the heart and talents, the skills and brains of the disabled is a large part of our future.
Benefits coming from our efforts should include legislative representation, operational assistance, continuing education, workshops, conventions at statewide, regional and national venues; a network of information sharing. These efforts need to be sponsored by not only your national, state and local governments, but by private industry, churches, mom and pop enterprise, and schools. Furthermore it should have more representation in scouting, 4-H and other venues that pretty much now exclude people with disabilities.
A renewed and fresh approach should have committees that would closely follow any legislation and programs introduced which directly or indirectly affect the disabled and intercede when the situation warrants. Through a new approach, offices, stores, restaurants, government offices, stadiums, churches and more need to whole heartily enhance the lifestyles of the disabled–not jury-rig their way through it with a temporary fix.
Readers, please hear me! In the beautiful countryside of America enjoyed by hundreds of thousands for many generations, a group is often omitted, denied access to vistas of beauty because they have a disability. I myself, have been the “odd man out” on many occasion’s and need to muster up a smile and utter the words “oh, that’s ok, go ahead”, “I’ll wait here”. To see what I mean, read the rules and regulations (the fine print) if a person with a disability wants to take a cruise or train trip. It is ridiculous, insulting and demeaning.
Disabilities are not all the same so we need to specifically customize requirements so each disabled person can fully benefit directly and immediately from amenities suited and tested by people with disabilities. Let’s set a deadline to open up America for all. Give your local support teams a call and make a difference in your life as well. Expand your visibility and look at the disabled community as a unique citizenry. We are not to be viewed as pitiful novelties or unfortunate oddities.
Now this part of the message if for mothers and fathers of America, realize your children are curious and when they approach a person with a disability, any disability, don’t raise your voice and harshly say, “Get away from them.” What message have you just sent to your child? Stop it! Children are often curious and in their little ways help someone by sharing a special smile or a gentle touch. Truthfully, you as parents, in your own skin, need to get away from a person with a disability because you, in the comfort zone of society, don’t want to deal with perhaps not understanding what someone is trying to say to you, or a person who drools or shakes or can’t reach the top shelf to get a box of Jiffy mix. You are uncomfortable, so you chastise your child because they want to say “hello” to someone in a wheelchair or scooter. Your attitudes have extended too far for too long and it needs to stop now. A quality often left out of raising children is
compassion for others.
Just a quick story about children learning from parents. I witnessed a father with three children park in a handicapped zone. The oldest child said, “Daddy, we can’t park here, it is for handicapped,” as she pointed to the sign. The dad responded, “Ya, I know, LIMP!
I think America needs a new slogan. A new special day to remember! How about ‘Pride and Perseverance: Disabled Advocacy Day?’ Now is the time for giving and sharing a spirit of lasting commitment to America’s disabled community and put a new twinkle in their eyes and a warm glow in their hearts, sharing a special moment with a disabled person.
The word disabled is a commonly misunderstood word. Disabled, no matter how you spell it, the meaning is the same. “A condition that is ignored by the thoughtless and unenlightened person.” Just for your edification, we reluctantly excuse your ignorance.
During the month of August we have no religious or federal holidays or at least nothing that Hallmark recognizes. So I am advocating a disabled awareness day. This day honors the struggles of individual disabilities and gives those who aren’t disabled an opportunity to correct a character flaw of “looking the other way” instead of recognizing the valiant and accomplished person with disabilities. Get the picture, you can now help instead of ignore and/or stare.
This one special day is a day when you begin a journey into a new world, a world of selfless and noble living contributing and helping others far less strong and mobile than you. I guarantee you will make a new and genuine friend who is more interested in a friendship of substance rather than a social friendship of meaningless activity. Possibly during August we can all stop for a moment and in our thoughts, deeds, words and works be thankful for your own mobility and access to the world. Just real people helping others in need of a connection to a friend who doesn’t see their disability and who isn’t afraid to be seen with a person of disability. They can be a very personal and worthwhile endeavor.
Freedom to people without disabilities is different to people with disabilities. The integrity of the disabled is often overlooked and their purpose in life is way too often overlooked. There is a gallantry in the disabled whose life and life’s experiences have seasoned them to accept, but not necessarily like the unthinking hurts of the general public. Freedom is now more challenging than ever before and it is up to all of us, no matter what lot in life, to protect the futures of all people; and that my dear readers includes the disabled. Do you ever stop to think how much freedom affords us? The right to choose ignorance or intelligence, the right to spread gloom or sunshine, the right to extend our energies to contribute to others instead of total self-involvement?
Expertise and experience isn’t all we need, we need a revitalization of conscience and of heart. We need to work for our disabled citizenry providing around-the-clock services giving them the care they deserve. Don’t wait for tomorrow when tomorrow might be too late. Let this message reverberate across our nation that we’re here to meet the needs of the disabled and an important note to remember and end this article is to give the disabled a chance because when they can rely on you, you can rely on them.
Yes freedom allows our lives to be enriched with play and laughter, with choice and commitment and through our routines of enjoying freedom, cleansing our bodies of staleness and our souls of bitterness. Basically our freedom gives us the right to cherish and believe in “our faith of choice” which blesses us each day. For those very same reasons, the same should be afforded to people with disabilities – any disability. For all of us, with or without barriers, freedom is so precious that it lies too deep for words.