There is an anniversary of great importance coming up. On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. It has helped me and countless others. The ADA provides services that I do take advantage of. Yes, there are some services that could additionally be provided, but signing the ADA was the beginning of this country treating persons with a disability as persons who perhaps need extra governmental services.
But the main part of this letter is how much Oak Park has become, whether it wanted to or not, an accepting community. For its residents to see a person in a wheelchair rolling around the street is nothing special. In many other communities, there would be a finger pointed at the person in the wheelchair. Although I am not in a wheelchair, I do have an invisible disability where I could be walking one minute and the next be down on the sidewalk, passed out due to my epilepsy. After six years of living in Oak Park, I know that from people in my church to people I don’t even know, instead of a finger pointed at me there has been a hand held out for me to take hold of.
To think of the many challenges I have overcome and the many challenges that many other persons with disabilities face each and every day, I invite you, the next time you see a person with a disability, please do not say to yourself, “that poor person.”
Pity is not what we want; acceptance is what we look for and enjoy.
I do ask you to remember that a person with a disability need not be a person in a wheelchair or using an assistive device. There are many diseases that cause a person to be considered a person with a disability. Unless you are close to a person, you would not know they are a person with a disability.
Finally, everyone knows how to be a friend. Include at least one person with a disability as someone you consider one of your friends. When you get close to them, you may be amazed that, even though they are a person with a disability, they have talents and knowledge.
Remember the world is made up of persons of all types, and one of those types is persons with a disability.