Disability 101: I have a Voice (ADA Watch Reprint)

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Disability 101: I Have A Voice

Posted By Jim On March 20, 2009 @ 3:02 am In Disability Newswire, Opinion | 3 Comments

By Sandy Lahmann
Daily Summit County, Colorado

I’ve been racking my braintrying to figure out how to explain this to you. I guess it’s about a dumbing down, a denial of respect, a denial of dignity, a loss of voice.

I have a voice. I have a well thought out opinion. I have valuable knowledge. I am capable of making sound decisions.

But some people apparently think I don’t and I’m not. Just because I use a wheelchair. There’s a stereotype, an assumption, that people who use a wheelchair, people who are blind, people who are deaf, and other people with disabilities are not very intelligent.

As a result, some service providers, family members, co-workers, and community members feel compelled to tell us what to do. They feel a need to instruct us, guide us, inform us, explain to us, decide for us, and lecture us about how we should live our lives. And then they want to speak for us.

In other words, they treat us like children who must be protected for their own good. How terribly patronizing. It curls my toes. It sets me to screaming in frustration.

I am 46 years old. I have a college degree with a 4.0 GPA. I am a successful professional. I raised two children into two awesome and successful adults. I am not a child. Despite the fact I use a wheelchair.

I don’t need you to tell me how to manage my disability, what health care to pursue, what prescription drugs I should be taking, what supplements I should be taking, what food I should be eating, what exercise I should engage in, what extracurricular activities I should be participating in, where I should be living, whether or not I should be applying for social security benefits, what I should think, what I should believe, what I should do, and how I should breathe.

I really can figure these things out for myself. I am capable of doing my own research. And I have. I am capable of seeking out and evaluating the opinions of professionals. And I have. I am capable of weighing all the evidence and deciding for myself. And I have.

Why is it some people without a disability automatically think they know better than a person with a disability about how to live with a disability? It just doesn’t make sense.

Then some people without a disability want to speak to other people without a disability about what it’s like for people with a disability. How about if people with disabilities speak about what it’s like for people with disabilities?

I have a voice.

TASH, a civil rights organization for people with disabilities (www.tash.org [1]) shares the following verse:

“You do not know what I see, what I believe, what I dream, what I know. You do not live my life! You cannot be my voice. – From the Voice of the Highly Regarded (If I ever do want you to speak for me I’ll give you a call.)”

T-shirts with the saying are available from The Nth Degree at www.thenthdegree.com [2] [3]; .

Sometimes I might have an opinion with which you might disagree. Sometimes I might make a decision with which you might disagree. Sometimes I might take a risk and do something that’s not totally safe. And that is my right.

There is dignity in formulating my own opinions. There is dignity in making my own decisions. There is dignity in taking risks. Not to mention a life well lived.

Show me respect my granting me this dignity.

Published: http://www.summitdaily.com/article/20090315/NEWS/903159975/1078&ParentProfile=1055&title=Disability%20101%20%20I%20Have%20a%20Voice



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[1] www.tash.org: http://www.tash.org/

[2] www.thenthdegree.com: http://www.thenthdegree.com/

[3] http://www.thenthdegree.com>: http://www.thenthdegree.com>

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