“SOMETHING WORTH FIGHTING FOR”
I had a discussion with members of the Bangor Chapter recently, and I drew some parallels between the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the concurring federal disability rights efforts that came about not soon after. I talked a little bit about how people like Ed Roberts and Judi Heinch helped lead that crusade and put those wheels in motion back then. I explained that many of us with a disability may have a lot more in common with other heavily scrutinized minority groups than we may realize.
Later this year, we will be celebrating the 30 year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It became a law under the Bush 41 administration, and the intent behind it was to ensure that everyone with a disability had equal access to all of the same resources that everyone else without a disability can access. While I’m inclined to agree that we’ve made improvements since the ADA was signed into law, there are still some concerns regarding ease of access, especially here in Maine. In general, a lot has changed since the early days of the federal disability rights movement. But there is still more work to be done to ensure that everyone with a disability has all the support that they need to live a full productive life in the communities they live in.
Everywhere I have been in life, I have had to fight long and hard to fit in. A spot for me was never a guarantee. Common sense would dictate that if we see someone who is clearly struggling to fit in somewhere in any aspect of life, we don’t just stand back and watch them struggle and that we don’t go out of our way to make it even harder for them to fit in. Anyone who gets some perverse enjoyment out of something like that must not have a conscience. I’ve always believed in being the kind of friend that I would want for myself. So if I see someone struggling to fit in, I make it a point to extend an olive branch to them and clear a spot at the table for them, because I know if the shoe were on the other foot, I would appreciate being invited and included when people go out and do stuff sometimes without having to beg for it.
I don’t think I’m being entirely unreasonable for wanting things to do and friends to do things with. I like having something to look forward to once in a while. I appreciate when I can connect with other people in a meaningful way without it blowing up in my face. But sometimes, I feel like the goalposts get moved on me without any warning. It’s almost as if our society plays a dirty trick on people like us that way, like they make up their own rules as they go along. It plays out like the evil authority figure on Raw or SmackDown making a popular fan favorite jump through hoops to get a title match at an upcoming pay-per-view.
I’m pushing hard for the youth movement in our current 18-34 demographic, and especially the “under-25ers.” I’m counting on everyone in it to fight hard for the changes that we need to see. The future depends on it. Their fight is our fight. They stand for things that we stand for. It needs to be a concentrated team effort with everyone working together and functioning as a cohesive unit towards a common goal. I’m only one guy, and I can only do so much. But I’ve always believed in making life better for everyone with a disability any way I can, and I’m committed to fighting for the changes that they want to see in all aspects of their everyday lives.
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