In the NFL, the head coach of each team carries a red challenge flag on their person during every game. Each head coach is permitted to use this challenge flag twice during each game to initiate a booth review of certain plays to either confirm or reverse an official’s ruling on the field. In rare instances, a head coach is awarded a third challenge during a game, but only if both of their initial challenges were successful.
When I first began getting involved with SUFU, some of my main talking points back then revolved around “challenging the status quo” and “fighting to facilitate real change.” I expanded on the concept of the challenge flag as applied in the NFL and took it a step further to apply to real life situations. Over time, the symbolism behind the challenge flag and what it represents to me personally became my rally cry. The challenge flag means a lot more in life to me than just reviewing a previous play worth another look during football games. It’s about challenging ourselves and what we think we know about the way things are. It’s about challenging our society’s preconceived notions of people with disabilities and what we’re capable of. It’s about challenging outdated thought patterns in a more socially progressive and forward-thinking world.
I see so much untapped potential in a lot of our members. It frustrates me that so many of us have had our legs cut out from underneath us before we could truly make something of ourselves. I’m glad that our trusted allies at Disability Rights Maine have been pushing hard for Supported Decision Making in recent times. All too often, parents rush to apply for guardianship after we turn 18 because of preconceived notions they may have about whether we can exercise good judgment or not. It’s almost as if many of us with a disability aren’t really given a fair chance to prove that we can make informed adult decisions about our own lives.
It would be nice if we were all on a leveled playing field as we make our way through life. If that were the case, more of us with a disability would go to college, have a job, marry and raise a family. Currently, potential reductions in our SSI / SSDI benefits hold many of us back from doing these normal everyday life things that everyone else takes for granted. And I’ve never understood the logic behind it. You would think the system would encourage us to take steps to improve our lives any way we can. Yet, it penalizes us for daring to do what everyone else without a disability does. It stifles our potential for growth and development, so we stagnate and get complacent through no fault of our own.
Even in the face of a flawed system, I would love to see more of us with a disability pushing back against it and making more of ourselves in this world and unlocking our full potential. Anything each of us can do to make our lives better will be a huge help going forward. I know I’ve always taken a special delight in doing things other people thought I would never do. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I’ll tell them, “Watch me.” And in that moment, I have a chip on my shoulder and something to prove. I’ve often gotten some of my best work done when I’m angry and motivated, and that frame of mind can make a world of difference.
If you are self advocate and would like to share a blog post with us please email Laurie Coldwell at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Speaking Up For Us (SUFU) blog contains views and opinions of each individual writer. The views and opinions expressed through these channels are purely the bloggers’ own and does not reflect the opinion of SUFU as an organization or any SUFU staff member.