We spent a day at the State Capitol meeting legislators, learning about advocacy and seeing the faces behind the people who manage the programs that provide opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in the community. We also looked at a house bill around affordable housing and learned how to prepare testimony to support or oppose social policy as it impacts people with disabilities. This is the second year of our grant and for the second time I walked away humbled and proud that my path has led me to this life.
|Picture compliments of https://www.facebook.com/ZachKorbelPublicSpeaker|
On a different note, I often try, yet very rarely succeed in eavesdropping on Alex’s conversations. I wonder what she says, how she says it and how her conversational skills are with people she doesn’t know. I wonder if her humor, sensitivity and love of life come through when she talks to people outside her circle. I often wish for that invisibility cloak.Along those lines, I had the pleasure of driving two of our group members to Denver for the conference as well as picking up another friend mid-way who sits on the council. Based on my experience with Alex I assumed their conversations might be guarded and once again I would walk away wondering what they would have talked about if I wasn’t there.
The conversation to collect the third rider was cordial, mainly pleasantries and shared excitement for the trip. We picked up our new rider and these young women all introduced themselves and covered the basics. I drove on through the beautiful Colorado mountains, listened, day dreamed and realized I had indeed become invisible.The conversation continued until I heard the “where do you live?” question. A simple question with so much meaning…. It will forever be another of those moments that makes me so grateful to be part of this circle of friends who do not think like I do, do not have the same opportunities I do, yet try much harder than I ever have had to create a life where they feel valued and included. I learn so much every day, always things I did not even know I needed to learn.
You see, when asked “where do you live” all three of my friends answered with three simple words, “I am independent”. Where is not a place for people with developmental disabilities, to these three self -advocates where is how they live, it symbolizes all the hard work they have done to get to a place where they live independently (no matter the physical setting - even if at home) , interact in the community and hold meaningful jobs.
Note: Living independently for a person with a developmental disability is like putting a huge puzzle together. Often we as parents have to coordinate case management services, Medicaid funding for support services and finding the right place. And then there is the lack of employment options……Yet it is doable and very successful. Leave a note if you have a question.But most importantly it is about having choice and choosing how you want to live. Where is something that is sorely missing in our cities, states and country right now.
Think about it…where do you live? Or better yet, where do you want to live?
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