I recently had the pleasure of hearing Kathie Snow speak.
She asked a simple question: on your deathbed, will you look back and think “I’m so glad I could walk” or “I’m so glad I had appropriate behaviors”?
I think the vast majority of us would not think about that, but would think about the people we loved, the places we had been, the things we had accomplished.
But yet this is the life to which we condemn people with disabilities – a life where “I’m so glad I had appropriate behaviors” is the extent of accomplishment. We push therapies, sheltered workshops, group homes – we demand they conform to a set standard of ability and behavior before allowing them into the world to attend school or work.
We need to ask this question: what would this person be doing if they did not have a disability?
We need to ask, and then we really need to listen to the answer. People with disabilities give us the answer all the time. They are telling us and showing us. That answer should be what drives our advocacy, and drives us to remodel the service system so that it allows people to create lives.
What can we do to listen better? What can we do to allow for authentic life experiences for those with disabilities? How do we stop doing for, and start helping others create lives?