Why Should We Have to Make a Case for People With Disabilities to be Full Participants in Their Community?

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Insitute. The short answer to our title question is that we shouldn’t. After all, one of our sacred founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, establishes the basic equality and standing of all of us as citizens. The right to be here is more fundamental than a statute. It is ours by the natural order of things.

Why, then, do we have to argue for the place that people with disabilities have among us? The answer is that we do not have to make that argument. That right has already been declared by the founders of our nation. Our job as people with disabilities and agents acting on their behalf is simply to step into our assured place.

Now to be sure, there is still some debris to clear away. Schools still separate, and thereby subordinate, people according to disability. We place people with disabilities in places set apart for them to live. We establish different places for them to work than the rest of us. We still maintain separate recreational programs. Even with our best efforts, we are often several steps away from the rightful place for people with disabilities to stand.

Going forward, however, let us act on the assumption that that Declaration affirmed a long time ago and reaffirms every time we as a country recite what is fundamental to our creeds. At this time we are not only working to prepare people with disabilities to live, work and play among us. Now we must also be about the task of working as a community to make their pathway to full participation easier to walk.

In our Community Participation Initiative we have been working for some five years with community agencies that serve all people. Not only have they been responding to the invitation to include people with disabilities, but they have also become leaders in the Initiative in their own right.