Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How To Treat Disability? Call Superman, Who Else?

How To Treat Disability? First, Call Superman!

How to treat disability? First we must treat the society that leaves no space for our children to fit. This is their only disability. This was Pearl Buck's mission here in America. It is through Pearl Buck's advocacy for inclusion and independence where our past meets the future. In terms of linear time, we have made progress since she found quality care for her daughter in the 50s. We have made progress since John Hockenberry's Uncle Charlie was institutionalized but we can't assume that just because we "see" them out- and- about that they are also "included." Inclusion goes beyond seeing our family and friends out in public; inclusion is an immersion of our thoughts, creative process, and actions.

In regard to accessibility and mobility, I have heard over and over and over from people with disabilities they are only an "after thought in planning" even with the current ADA standards in place. I've read the silliest excuses and legal exemptions for leaving things inaccessible. For example, a national historical building was seeking funding for installing push buttons to open doors. The historians and newspapers went bananas because it interfered with the integrity of the building. It became an internal political battle like most things. Innuendos about secret motives, ADA allowances, and love affairs were among some of the reasons why it shouldn't be done until somebody mentioned it was the right thing to do.

Recently, a mother informed me that the "everybody counts" program was dropped from her school system because it wasn't needed anymore. I laughed like always do when I hear irony in action. It was considered outdated by the PTA and some of the exercises made people feel uncomfortable because two of the students had "handicaps.

Inclusion is learning process. It's about including one person at a time which is something we cannot fathom when we have the attention span of a few minutes. Making something the height and depth for a wheelchair and slapping a sticker on it while leaving other areas inaccessible is not inclusion.

I can't help but think about the hilarious slapstick of Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times" when he get caught in the gears of that giant machine. I can't think of a better way to describe what happened to Pearl Buck's vision of inclusion. Somewhere it got stuck and jammed the system. The challenge is identifying what caused the clog so it doesn't happen again or at least hire a new quality control team so if it does clog, it won't shut down the entire operation.

I propose we stop the machine, rescue Charlie, and start it up again. And the first thing I'd like to do is have a national "Superman" day where EVERYONE spends the entire day either  navigating or assisting a person using a wheelchair for mobility.

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