What will it take for us to achieve a truly inclusive society? We have come a long way, but we’re far from inclusive. Just take a look at our community institutions: medical settings, schools, transportation systems, public safety services, and other services that are available to Americans.
In Governing, an online newsletter, we read that Nebraskan Kathy Hoell has continually been told she “isn’t smart enough to cast a ballot.” And “nearly two-thirds of the 137 polling places inspected on Election Day 2016 had at least one impediment to people with disabilities.” Inspections in 2008 had discovered fewer impediments.
The New York Times revisited the value of “asylums” or institutions for some people with disabilities. This isn’t the first time there have been suggestions of a return. In response, Julia W. Robinson, a professor at University of Minnesota, wrote: “institutions are a recipe for subjugation. Isolated from everyday life, controlled by staff, housed in large numbers, shepherded in groups to prescribed activities, residents become institutionalized…they become unused to making decisions, and less able to create their own identity or stand up for themselves…segregated from the life of an active community.”
Mimi and Dona, a movie which premiered in 2015, has been promoted recently. It tells the story of 92 year-old mother who is helping her daughter move into a new home after living together with her for decades. Will her new staff ensure that she continues to participate in her community, stay connected to her chosen faith community, and partake in other activities? I hope so. But hope isn’t enough.
The Arc wants to work collectively with you and others toward establishing a fully inclusive society. Think about what that would mean for you or your family member. Personal advocacy is vital – learning, growing, and enlisting ‘volunteers’ to help achieve goals that we all want in our lives. Collectively, however, we can change the way larger systems operate.
As we’ve written before, it starts with us – so let us not take past achievements for granted, nor should we let the barriers of the status quo be accepted as permanent.
Leo V. Sarkissian