I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
As I reflect on this Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, I wonder how far we have come to realize his dream.
There is one particular line in his “I Have a Dream” speech that I often think about. (http://www.usconstitution.net/dream.html) “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I know that Dr. King was speaking of the racial issues of the day, but I can’t help but wonder what happens if we change the “color of their skin” to other groups who are discriminated against.
For me, the obvious one is people with disabilities. As a father, I have seen my son discriminated against simply because he has a developmental disability. He is told what he can’t do, even if it is something that he enjoys. He needs to be able to make the decision on his own. Not only has my son changed my life, but he has changed the lives of those who come in contact with him.
As a friend of many individuals with disabilities, I see barriers placed on their lives because some people do not think they know any better and they are an easy target. Again, they are told what they can’t do. Many of these individuals are truly amazing people and the things that they have accomplished would shock many people.
As a member of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, I am seeing how legislative policies are having an effect on individuals. In many instances, people do not always realize how laws affect individuals with disabilities. I have had the opportunity to share my thoughts with many legislators and individuals and helped them to realize these effects.
In my career as worker in the Long-Term Care field, I am seeing firsthand how barriers are placed on individuals with disabilities. Many people become frustrated by the amount of “hoops” they need to jump through to live a meaningful life. Imagine wanting to go out for a cup of coffee, but you are limited in your choices because some buildings are not wheel chair accessible?
Try going one year, one month, one week or one day when you do not judging people by “the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”