“A CREDO FOR SUPPORT” begins, “Do not see my disability as the problem. Recognize that my disability is an attribute…” and goes on as a poetic request from people with disabilities to be treated as equal human beings. A Google search will lead to several text versions and videos on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wunHDfZFxXw ). Originally written in 1996, it has found its way into the mainstream via the Internet. This is good news. Finally, everyone can be exposed to the issues and desires of people with disabilities. Awareness is the first step to attitude change. Attitude is the necessary precursor to a change in action.
It’s good news that disability issues have found a mainstream outlet, but the bad news comes in the response. I was sickened to read some of the posted responses to the YouTube video from people who obviously don’t get it and continue to resist efforts towards awareness and acceptance. How long will it take for real attitude change in our society? How long will it take before we truly accept all people regardless of ability? Will there ever be a time when we see past our differences right to the heart of our shared humanity?
It’s one thing to mandate acceptance, but it is quite another to actually make it happen in hearts and minds. Since 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has demanded that we no longer exclude people because of disability. Yet people are still excluded regularly and systematically in all areas of life. At times, the exclusion is purposeful and blatant. Other times, it is more subtle. Sometimes, it is perpetuated by well-meaning people who simply don’t realize the ways that their “help” is not helping. Awareness is necessary to increase understanding so that well-meaning people can do better and so that more people will mean well.
When will people with disabilities be able to speak for themselves without being ridiculed and diminished in their efforts by ignorant closed-minded people who can’t see that people with disabilities are people? People with gifts and joys to be celebrated. People who deserve to be respected, accepted, and valued in communities and society. What is in your heart? Do your actions match your attitude? Today, begin to think of how you accept others in your heart, in your soul, and in your actions.