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The revolution for the disabled

We have all read about revolutions. People took a stand for something they passionately believed in. People lost their lives for the "cause". Great stories, plays, and music have been inspired by revolutions. Do we think revolutionary causes always belong tucked safely away in a book or passionately displayed on the stage?

What about a different kind of revolution? A revolution that stands for those who have no or little voice; a revolution for the weak who face adversity every day of their lives.  I am speaking of a revolution for those who are poorly treated, maligned, jeered at, overlooked, and ignored.  Disabled children and adults are treated by many as freaks, weirdoes, or outcasts. The more refined in society politely overlook or say a kind word when deemed necessary. Few try to understand the everyday struggle they go through.

I was raised with an aunt who had cerebral palsy, and I have several close friends with disabilities. When I went out with my family, I felt the different reactions that people had. Some people showed pity, others tried to look away; no one drew close. I learned to have compassion for people who were different. I knew that we really were the same. We had the same feelings, same taste in clothing, same desire to do something with our lives. My mouth or hands may not work the same as a person with disabilities. My question- Does that really matter?

These people with disabilities have a heart, a mind, and feelings. Sometimes there are things trapped inside that can't be openly expressed, but they are there all the same. A child with a disability would love to be asked to play baseball. If asked, that child is the last pick and pushed aside during the "action."  A man or woman with a disability has a passion for life, a desire to be loved, and a voice that needs to be heard. How often do people stop, take the time to listen to or understand what those passions and desires are?

There is a quiet revolutionary force that acts on the behalf of these people. They are friends, family, caregivers, and advocates. They take time, listen, sacrifice, and dream that a better life could be around the corner. Some of these people are in homes that offer a rich, understanding environment for children or adults. I worked as a student nurse in a small, one of a kind home for children. We were a family. These children made inroads. Everyday was a victory. We loved, we played, we cried, we lived. These children were my heroes; my role models. Many of these children were able to move out as adults and get jobs. They are an active, valid part of society.

Institutions are an alternative offered to many. They offer cold corridors and staff who are too busy to listen. If a family can no longer provide care, this could be the only alternative for someone unable to care for him or herself. My aunt was placed in an institution, as an adult, and lost what function she had gained as a young person. Television became her closest and only friend.

Children need help getting from the basics to the more difficult tasks. Equipping families to care for and train their children results in success. Adults can use encouragement. They need jobs; they need friends, and people on the job that come alongside of them. It's easy to be petty and look down on people; a human being invests in the lives of others.

When will people join in the revolution for the disabled and sound the cry? Some of the revolutionaries may not completely understand the cause. Isn't that true of past revolutions? A few had the vision; many were caught up in the energy. A revolution where people openly take a stand for the disabled is worth the effort. Many win - no one loses. The disabled will follow the revolutionaries to the end. Who will raise the standard?


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This revolution is happening already...

I've been part of this revolution for all my working life. We've managed finally to close the last hospital for people with learning disabilities in the UK, but we still have a long way to go. People live in their communities, some have jobs, some friends, some families. Many still lead isolated lives, suffer from at best mild abuse and rejection, at worse violence.

But the revolution still continues, and we are in its next phase. Self-directed support gives power and control to people with disabilities and their families to choose how the money funding their service is spent. And slowly, slowly, we are seeing some dramatic changes and the beginning of a transformation of people's lives.

When a person with a disability can access their whole society, without physical or emotional barriers; when they can marry who they please, stay out as late as they like, have a job, a life like anyone else; and when they can go out of their house and not be subject to ridicule and pity, the revolution will be over. But until that day...we need everyone in on the fight.