Many of you have probably seen the “countdown” to Thanksgiving posts on Facebook in which your friends name something that they are thankful for each day in November until Thanksgiving. While there is no doubt that giving thanks for the blessings in our life puts things into perspective and brings a little more kindness into the universe, there are basic needs and rights we all enjoy that people with disabilities shouldn’t have to say “thank you” for. This list is not aimed to portray a ‘negative’ perspective but rather my hope is that this list will provide some insight into some situations and facts of life that many of us with disabilities struggle to conquer and overcome without having to be ‘grateful.’
When automatic doors are installed in our places of work, shopping centers or businesses we often frequent, we should not have to say “thank you.” The right to access our workplaces, shop or worship where we like, attend events and run our errands should be everyone’s right.
2. A job
The right to fulfilling employment should be everyone’s. People with disabilities should have the same opportunities to choose a place of employment as potential employers have when considering an applicant.
3. An education
Sky high medical expenses, lack of accessibility or resources to help us to and from classes, and discrimination in entrance interviews are just some of the barriers many people with disabilities encounter when trying to achieve the dream of higher education.
4. A voice
Exercising our right to vote and make our opinion count is still a struggle. Though many polling places have worked to provide equal access to all voters (accessible voting booths, absentee ballots, etc.) this is still a challenge in many areas.
5. Our health
Disability and health are not always interchangeable. We should not have to apologize for wanting to live a healthy lifestyle or only living up to what others feel we are capable of achieving physically.
6. A loving family
Many of us are lucky to have great friends and family surround us who love us, inspire us, care for us and accept us as a human and do not love us because we are someone with a disability who needs to be ‘cared for.’
Accomplishing a goal is something everyone should be proud of, not pitied for. It’s refreshing to feel acknowledged for accomplishing a goal because of hard work and talent without having to be “awe inspiring” others because we did it with a disability.
8. Kind gestures
If only we all treated each other with a little more kindness each day, the world might be a better place. When others specifically go out of their way to single out someone with a disability out through a gesture of kindness that they would not bestow on someone else, it can perpetuate the categorization of those with disabilities as a group of people who need ‘special help.’ I enjoy a warm fuzzy as much as the next person, but those of us with disabilities know when a gesture is done out of kindness in an effort to connect on a human level or out of pity.
There’s the phrase that “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” While we can all learn from mistakes or challenges, no one should have to feel grateful or qualify bad behavior as a path to becoming ‘a stronger person.’ Teachable moments should not have to arise from insensitivity.
10. The way things are today
Disability rights have come a looong way since the beginning of the ADA back in the 1990's, but we still have a long way to go. What can you do for the disability community in your area?
This is the perfect time of year to give thanks for our friends, families and blessings. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?