I recently posted a story written by a father about his daughter on the Florida Fathers Network page. Of several comments I received, one stood out to me. It reflected that we all need to hear more about positive things and I couldn’t agree more.
It is so commonplace for the media to sensationalize negativity about disability and not focus on all the positive things. Granted, there are many negative issues that should be brought into the light and exposed for what they are – and there should be ways devised to ensure they are not repeated – but there are also success stories that do not get shared that would possibly paint people with disabilities in a more positive light. There needs to be a more consistent positive depiction of disability as commonplace and natural, recognizing individuals as part of mainstream society. I would trade inspirational for successful and accepted any day, just to be treated as normal. There is a major difference between normal and average; my disabilities are normal for me but definitely not average to the general population.
It is heartening to see what happens when we do take time to include people with disabilities in events others take for granted and the resulting happiness that comes from it, like this story in the Naples news. But once noble efforts like this have passed and accolades doled out to those who made it happen, all too often the general population returns to its self-serving agendas and individuals with disabilities are once again subjected to inequalities and limited access. Perhaps if society were exposed to more stories of positive outcomes, that might change. There are a multitude of success stories that occur daily yet are not deemed newsworthy because even though they might be about major victories in the daily lives of children with disabilities, they are perceived as minor milestones that others take for granted.
The first step in learning to walk that was never expected to happen, the first words coaxed forth with countless hours of speech therapy – these and so many other skills may have been ones that their parents were told their child would never be able to reach. When a child with a disability surpasses all expectations, it’s big news.
The recognition of the professionals who, every day, show up to work with limited resources, yet manage to achieve amazing results teaching the children others deemed unteachable – that should be front page news.
If we look back truthfully on our lives at the individuals that had at one point had a positive impact, at least one of those will be a teacher. For children with disabilities, from first step, first words, to first job and first apartment – these are the positive stories and accomplishments I think need to be shared for those are the real reason IDEA exists. Although some may call these details mundane, for others they seem miraculous, especially when they were considered in the past to be impossible.
Whenever I am out in the community and I see an individual with a disability working, or just participating in daily living, I have to smile with understanding at the path they had to take to get there. I count them as victorious and another exception to the rule of that what is considered average. By these examples, we know what is possible.
Society fears and rejects what is not understood. To foster understanding and acceptance, disability must become a part of daily life and not an isolated, segregated exception. With every passing year, I hope that change will happen naturally and acceptance will follow as well.
I do see flashes of what could be.