The Developmental Disability Assistance and Bill of Rights Act states that “disability is a natural part of the human experience that does not diminish the right of individuals with developmental disabilities to live independently; enjoy self-determination; make choices; contribute to society; pursue meaningful careers and enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural and educational mainstream of United States society.”
Given the above statement, I often wonder why are people living with disabilities often segregated, oppressed and unemployed?
Inclusion is the natural state. It’s where we all start. Yet somewhere along the line, segregation occurs for many people who are disabled. Why? When does it start?
Maybe inclusion tests educational and social values. Maybe it questions a person’s value to their community. Perhaps it stirs feelings of fear. Is sharing in community not considered a viable option for people with disabilities?
Maybe we are ignoring a person’s dreams and desires. Segregation is dangerous and harmful. It is the root of all oppression. Is this what we want for our children? Is this what they want for themselves?
Self-determination is also a natural part of life. People, all people, want and deserve to make choices in their own life. So why are people with disabilities often denied this chance? Is the person’s ability to make good choices doubted? Is it due to a lack of expectations? Or lack of creativity?
Some of the best lessons are learned from failure. Risks must be taken if a person is going to grow and learn. The reward is in the risk, even for people with disabilities.
The number of employed people with disabilities is lower than those without a disability. Previously it was thought people with disabilities were unable to contribute to the workforce, but we now know better.
Are the strengths of a person with a disability considered? Or is the focus on what a person cannot do? Is it required that a person will be able to complete all skills in a position? Or is a position based on what’s best for the employer and the employee?
When we get creative and think outside the box, employment success is possible. Even for a person with significant support needs.
Once we know why segregation, oppression and unemployment occur, the barriers can be removed and the quality of life for people with disabilities will improve.