Attitudes toward those with intellectual or developmental disabilities are changing in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go. One surprising story that shows how far we have to go comes from Australia just this month.
Sarah Maroun, who expects the birth of her daughter in January, was attacked on the web when she publicly revealed her decision to go full-term after a prenatal screening revealed her daughter would be born with Down syndrome. Further, one of the doctors involved in her care even used the term “Mongoloid” and encouraged an abortion. Critical bloggers focused on the drain she would place on the state with the birth of her daughter.
Only through personal and public education can we succeed in fostering a more understanding culture. This past Wednesday was “National Stop Bullying Day.” One way to improve acceptance is discouraging negative behavior and language.
Another is celebrating positive actions, along with the successes of persons with disabilities. For example, Shelby County High School held its homecoming parade, a longstanding community event in Columbiana, Alabama. As student groups competed to be named the parade’s best float, the parade’s banner was held by students with special needs. “Individuals with a developmental disability or delay are part of every part of life,” said community member Elizabeth Ward. “Everyone contributes to the community in a special way.”
In Madison, Wisconsin, Widen Enterprises prides itself on a diverse workforce in which 5 out of 100 people have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and/or other developmental disabilities. Hiring people who reflect these demographics has been a deliberate, intentional effort on the company’s part.
We may currently have “miles to go” before we can sleep, but with continued efforts like these, the journey may be shorter than we think.
Leo V. Sarkissian