Every year, almost every person makes New Year’s resolutions on this day. Some may be big. Some may be small. Every one has a story behind why the maker made it. It is impossible to know the reason behind every person’s resolutions.
However, as a longtime advocate, I can suggest a few that may be especially appropriate for people with disabilities (PWD). Throughout the next week, I'll be posting one resolution suggestion per day. These may or may not suit your life, but I hope that my aggressions will help you formulate your own plan of conquering for 2013.
First and foremost, I think important for PWD to realize that the freedom and opportunity thet enjoy today does not exist in a vacuum. For at least the last 30 years people have spent years working on the legal and attitudinal changes necessary for PWD to live full and fulfilling lives. This work is by no means completed. Every person regardless of their situation has the power and the responsibility to keep the movement moving forward.
By this point I know some of my readers are saying: "Not me, I'm bed bound." "Not me, I have a developmental delay." "Not me, I'm too young." Not me, I'm just an artist." "Not me, I have a job." "Not me, I have too much going on right now." "Not me, I don't want to get arrested."
My response, "Whatever…"
If Ed Roberts had decided to listen to all the people who told him he couldn't live at the University California Berkley and in the 70s because of his quadriplegia, a lot fewer personal care assistance (PCA) users would be visible on campuses all throughout America and, increasingly, the world. If the campaign run by student organizers appoint a Deaf president when the old one retired hadn't happened did not take place at Gallaudet University in 1988 to, the only public university for Deaf and hard of hearing students in the country may have never had its first Deaf president, even a quarter-century later. Incidentally, one 11-year-old's journey to becoming the activist and adult that she is today would have been that much harder. If, in 1989, Chris Burke hadn’t decided to audition for and eventually win the role of Corky in Life Goes On, the Pioneer Valley's Rainbow Players may have had a much harder time being viewed as legitimate artists and, therefore, fundraising for their recent trip to perform the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics.
I can hear my readership’s second objection. These were all big tasks. What can I do, individually? Here are some suggestions. As you are reading this article you obviously have access to the Internet. You probably have a list of e-mail contacts. Use your savvy and social networking to inform friends and family about campaigns that are important to PWD. Even if you can't get out of bed or only have 5 minutes at the end of the day, the disability rights movement appreciates every petition signature and every phone call. If you need help finding campaigns to support, I suggest you follow National ADAPT on Facebook or twitter, make a habit of searching for disability (or whatever other topics are of interest) on the change.org petition site, and/or sign up for the Center for Disability Rights action alert list.
If your developmental delay is stopping you from becoming the activist you want to be, Self Advocates Becoming Empowered may be just the community you need to develop your leadership skills. Also, it is becoming common for the disability rights movement to organize across to diagnosis barrier.
If you think you’re too young to make the world better, you’re not! There are many organization and projects devoted to teaching young people the skills to become the next generation of community organizers. While Do Something and Me to We aren't specifically disability focused they are devoted to empowering young people to influence major social issues. For a more disability centered training option, YO! Disabled & Proud and the National Youth Leadership Network are two choices.
If you can't find a place to connect your art and your activism, I suggest donating work to an auction that will raise money for a cause you care about, which may or may not be disability related. How about writing a song or choreographing a dance? What about donating your services to an organization? In today's tough economic times, many nonprofits can't afford to hire professionals to paint murals, write blog posts, or teach their members new skills. Artists can do all of that and more. Writer Alice Walker said it best, "Activism is my rent was living on the planet.”
If you are fortunate enough to have a job in this economy it may cause you to do less activism than you would like to. This can be mitigated by participating when (such as on the weekends or in the evening) and how you're able to. While you may not be able to go to an event, you can certainly spread the word. Additionally, paychecks have power. Promise yourself that you're going to put aside a set amount of dollars for charitable giving each month, each week, for whatever cycle fits your situation. A final tip for workers, if you can’t go subsidize someone else.
Many an emerging activist has been scared away from attending at an action because they don't want to be arrested. You don't have to be! Thanks to the First Amendment and Constitution, is absolutely legal to assemble and to petition your representatives or regret for redress of grievances. Frequently, police will say they're going to arrest everyone. This is not my experience. Generally, the police will issue a dispersal warning. Listen for that and move.
I hope this article has given you incentive to become a more active participant in the movement or movements of your choosing in 2013. Come back tomorrow for resolution suggestion #2. In the meantime, get up and get going!