There are things that you sometimes take for granted, especially when you are not a fan of them. Going to school, for instance, especially when you are a child. Now that I’m an adult, I treasure my education; attending Shawnee State University, I had a blast preparing for the work force and making life-long friendships.
However, I was fortunate that I could pursue whatever I wanted, because the Department of the Developmental Disabilities was established five years before I was born. 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the DoDD in Ohio.
For families that had loved ones with a developmental disability prior to 1967 life looked bleak – or at times, downright terrifying! Back then, the norm was placing people who had a disability in an institution, which likely was unsanitary, over-populated, and like living in a prison.
During the civil rights movements of the 1960s, families that included a family member with disabilities took their voices to the government, fighting for education for their children. I was born in 1972, and laws had been passed. I was very fortunate that at 3 years old I could attend preschool, where – among learning my alphabet and the days of the week, among other things – I also had physical and speech therapy.
Today, that’s called Early Childhood Intervention.
Times have indeed changed for the better from the institution age and being segregated from the world. Working at STAR, Inc., I see a lot of people with jobs both at STAR and in our community. We have come a long way; however, there is a long way still to go.
People with disabilities want to be treated equally, but we still get stared at by people of all ages. I understand little children looking at a person with wonderment, not understanding why this person is in a chair with wheels on it – but not older children, and especially not for an adult who happens to stare. We are not aliens; we just require some more assistance to function in this world.
We have come a long way in the past 50 years, and I am very grateful for the parents and families who had sought for changes for their loved ones. There is still so much more that can be done to improve lives for the better. Education is the key, and working within our community is a tremendous help. There are some students that can be taught within a regular school system, but some students may require more attention, and that is why we have the Vern Riffe School – so they can receive that attention they need to reach their full potential.
We don’t want to feel like an outcast within society and inclusion is essential because it lets people know that, yes, we may have some problems, but when you really get down to it, we are all just people in the end.
Bill Adams is the Self-Advocacy Specialist at STAR, Inc., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org