Monday, October 18, 2010

We're here to stay!

Okay...time to dive back into the world of CMT, or really just disabilities in general.  Let's at least get our feet wet!  I must admit, the mouse story distracted me just a little bit...thanks mom!  Though after a discussion I had with a friend of mine the other night I knew it was time to *DRAG* myself away from the mouse madness, and back into the world of disabilities. 

My friend 'G' came over to see the new apartment and have dinner.  We talked for hours, laughed like a couple of hyenas and shared silly stories as we always do when we're together.  G and I aren't able to get together that often, but when we do, watch out!!  And it has been a while since our last visit, so one of the things I showed her was this blog.  We got to talking about CMT, finances, working and trying to pay the know, happy topics like that!

G often talks about her childhood and I must say her stories are always interesting...she is one of eight children, the only girl surrounded by her many brothers, younger and older.  She grew up in NYC, a place that frankly frightens me with its many noises and smells, not to mention all the people.  I grew up in the country with one brother and one sister, surrounded by trees and birds, and a cornfield across the road...quite different!  When G talks about her family, I especially like to hear about her mother...I've never met any of G's family, but have no problem picturing her mom in my mind, mostly because of her strength and determined spirit.  This woman raised all eight children alone and did so with a firm hand, though loving nature.  She always managed to put food on the table no matter how tough things were.  And on top of doing all these things without the support of another parent, G's mom also had an added of her sons was born with Down Syndrome.

Back in the 60s, the number of people confined to institutions had just begun to wasn't until the 70s that laws were beginning to change, allowing disabled children to enter schools.  Children with Down Syndrome, along with many other disabled children were not truly welcome in the school system until the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 was passed.   Integration models did not exist in schools as they do today.  As with many disabilities, at that time not much was known about the life expectancy of children with Downs or their quality of life, and people did not take much time to help these children develop and explore their abilities.  And yes, people with Down Syndrome do have many abilities, and are perfectly capable of being functioning members of society...if only the people within their world are willing to see what they have to offer, and give them the help and space they need to grow!  G's mother helped her son face these challenges over the years, and struggled to help him fit into a society that was not and still is not always accommodating.  And why, after all these years is the world still falling short?  Maybe the main problem lies within the word 'disability.'  The definition of disability is 'A lack of a given ability, which may be physical, cognitive, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these,' according to Wikipedia.  Though this definition does not allude to the fact that a person who has a disability in one area may excel in only talks about how they are LACKING.  Or maybe the definition is sound, and we LACK the ability to truly understand we often lack the ability to understand the disabled.  Because if you think about it, saying that someone lacks a certain ability does not even begin to explain what that person is like.  I've currently seen several political figures that in my opinion are severely both honesty, and moral fiber--yet these people are not considered 'disabled.'   And as far as I know, people who are labeled as having a disability do not walk around with signs on their foreheads stating what their 'abilities' are (hmmm...maybe I should try that!) even though those abilities do exist.  Unfortunately, it is often difficult to show what you have to offer when the world around you continues to fall short in understanding and acceptance.  

In the September 5th issue of Deaf Digest, writer Sandy Lahmann states that people with disabilities are the largest minority group in our nation.  As of today one in five Americans, which is approximately 54 million people, have some type of disability (Title of article: Disability 101: Our Largest Minority.)  And yet despite the fact that there are so many disabled people in this country, it often takes years--decades even, for disabled people to be accepted within their schools, their workplace, their communities.  Why am I taking the time to mention this article and discuss this topic?  For the same reason G's mom fought to carve out a place in this world for all of her children, especially her disabled son; because they MATTER.  Back then, her children wanted what all children be accepted just as they are, and to be given the same rights and opportunities as their peers.  And all adults, regardless of their differences, want this as well; to be accepted for who they are, inside and out.  This is America after all, a country where all men are created equal...not all men 'except those who are disabled.'  Because no matter what areas people may be lacking in, we all have abilities...we all have the right to be a part of this world, and have a voice; and this right exists, not in spite of our differences, but because of them.  And we are here to stay!         

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