April 6, 2004
My Vision for Independent Living in 2020
As Charles Swindoll said so eloquently in his treatise on “Attitudes” ….”The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.” Let us not abandon the music. Not only must we play on the 1 string we have, I envision all persons to search for their “buried strings”- those within our reach that we have not yet uncovered. These are key to our gifts and talents – key to our reason for being. Let us forget for a moment that we have a body. Let us concentrate on our mind.
One of the most significant books I ever read was called, “Eighth Day of Creation,” by Elizabeth O’Connor. The book about Gifts and Creativity was required reading in a Pastor’s Wives Class I took when my husband was at seminary. The fact that I was in the midst of a full-fledged identity crisis, the soil of my mind was ready. It took to root and rooted deeply.
We know that l string we all have is our attitude. Is it not possible there are more strings? I believe there are and quite possibly more than 1 more string. Thirty years later our church offered an adult class on Discovering your gifts and talents. (Many of the class participants had never taken such a class). At the end of the class we all took a survey to identify our God-given spiritual gifts. Everyone was able to identify a number; some they never recognized before; young and old alike. Using these gifts are key to their identity; to feeling fulfilled; to achieving a purposeful quality of life.
The other point is acceptance. Perhaps the best known words on this subject can be found in what has come to be known as the “Serenity Prayer.” When I was a teenager, going to an Alateen meeting with a friend, I was first introduced to the first 4 lines –the lines often seen on plaques. Only the past year did I see the complete poem written by Reinhold Niebuhr:
“God grant me the serenity to accept
The things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right,
If I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever In the next. Amen”
My vision for the year 2020 and the Independent Living Movement would be that all children would be viewed as a value to society. All children would attend all-inclusive schools whether public or private whatever the choice.
Education would not only include Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, History, Spelling, English, Science and Physical Education. All children would participate and be assisted in searching for their unique gifts and talents with the full knowledge from their earliest years that “their invisible packpack contained wonderful keys to their uniqueness; only to be uncovered and utilized to make their future lives fulfilling. Labeling children would no longer be done. No Special – Education. No Gifted and Talented. Every child will have discovered and unburied their unique qualities before leaving elementary school.
If a person, child or adult has a disability of any sort, families could seek from the Independent Living Centers the most advanced knowledge from the available resources. Efforts would be made to seek caregivers or medical persons or technology innovators whose attitudes were hopeful of the future and believed in the worth of every person. They would themselves have identified gifts of compassion and encouragement as well as medical knowledge, creative knowledge- Cross-Abilities to serve people. Those doctors, teachers or social workers lacking in these important qualities or having a bleak outlook of the future would not be included in the resources listed because society recognized that their negativity would be contagious. Those workers who had positive, hopeful and genuinely caring personalities would be added to the data bank of resources. This information would be available, whether you lived in Michigan, California or some remote part of Kentucky or Idaho. The network of resources would be available to everyone.
When intakes were taken from a person with any type of disability, information would include that person’s wish list:
1. What are my biggest/greatest problems that I would like help with?
2. What Assistive technology devices would make my life easier or more comfortable?
3. What qualities seem to be missing in my life that I would like to gain for myself?
4. If I preferred to have a real live assistant by my side to help me instead of new
Technology, what are the qualities I would like for my Personal Assistant:
a. Someone who shares my love of music?
b. Someone who likes baseball?
c. Someone who has a wonderful sense of humor?
d. Someone who loves History?
e. Someone who is a great storyteller?
f. Someone who shares my faith?
g. Someone who is a good listener?
There would be a resource bank of people with cross-abilities, cross gifts of helping that would be available to serve the need I have. If the need was there for me to have a Personal Attendant, the monetary resources would be paid directly to that person. Her position was salaried so I do not need to feel I must be responsible for that unless I
wish. If I wanted, I also had a capable secretary who would handle my finances. Her salary would be paid from monthly income which was direct deposited into my bank account. This was amount due me and unless my condition improved substantially, I did not need to worry that the funds would dry up. My Personal Attendant had the choice of living in my home or maintaining separate living quarters. Together we worked out which 40 hours in a week I needed assistance.
If the wish list consisted of assistive technological devices; either something I heard about or something I pictured in my mind as being useful to make my life easier, those needs would be addressed immediately. There would be a resource bank of people available to me who had the unique gift and talent of an innovative and inventive mind. (I know they exist because I have a brother with these gifts). God is continually pouring into their minds new ideas to solve the world’s problems. They do not lack for ideas.
Persons with disabilities of any age would have at their side a spiritual mentor who would be their encourager on the journey, if they desired this service. These persons gifted with Wisdom would guide them in decision-making through life’s maze. Rather than accept as inevitable their circumstances, this person would serve as their Personal cheerleader and be the voice to encourage them to continue searching for a …..different doctor…..more suitable home…….more fulfilling job. They would also have the Wisdom to know when all possible options had been explored.
By 2020, Building codes required that 100% of all new buildings must be barrier free: houses, office buildings, churches, apartments and condominiums. If a person with a disability wanted to move, their options were no longer limited as in the past. No longer would it be a consideration for hiring a person with a disability as every office would be required to have at least one office that would accommodate a “moving chair.” The computer desk would be adjustable and fully equipped for its new user.
Persons with disabilities would be no different than any other worker. They would have long ago been identified as having specific gifts and talents; teachers, office workers, musicians, actors, computer technicians, doctors, lawyers. Those individuals who had disabilities and understood the injustice were an integral part of society and they went on to law school and became part of the decision-making body. Not only were they able to make a difference for persons with disabilities, but their gifts and talents were seen and respected by all of society. Their disability did not interfere with their reaching their full potential. When the time came for an important decision to be made for the disability community, they were already in an influential place. Scholarships would be made available for all students to continue learning as far as their individual ambition would take them. The limit was only of their own choosing.
Theaters, ballparks, museums, public transportation, doctors’ offices, churches schools and all other public buildings would be built to accommodate former wheelchair users. No longer would it be called a “wheeled chair” but a fully motorized chair. In fact, the idea had taken off and was so popular that many of the population were now using motorized chairs. Chairs suited to them; comfortable chairs that could move at a faster rate and transport the public to those events where they previously had to sit in a generic chair that oftentimes never fit them well. Because they were so popular, patrons now had the option of bringing their own moving, motorized chairs or sitting on an already built seat.
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