May we have access to life?

Silence must come to an end

What happens when a community’s voice continually goes unheard?  A community that represents at least 55 million Americans; a community that desires access to the world, but is repeatedly denied that access.  Eventually, that community will have had enough, just look at the Feminist Movement and the Civil Rights Movement.  Both movements are examples of a community of people encouraged to be silent.  Today, there is another community that is ready to be heard – the Disability community.

Read some of the lyrics to the song, The Sounds of Silence:

Fools, said I, you do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you

But my words, like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence.  

For hundreds of years, persons with disabilities have been regarded as lesser than or encouraged to be silent. In other words, society has no interest in listening to what persons with disabilities have to say because we are not worthy of having a voice.

Fortunately, in the late 1980s, a group of individuals came together to become a voice and formed ADAPT, which was instrumental in the passage of the American with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990. That passage mandated that public transportation and facilities must be accessible for persons with disabilities.  Sadly 27 years later issues of accessibility in public places, including faith communities and places of business remain. In fact, Congress is considering dialing back provisions of the ADA because the disability community remains to be unheard. There are other instances in which people with disabilities are not heard – in the public school system, the healthcare system, the political communities, faith communities, and long-term housing.

There are many organizations that do work for the disability community, but we remain unheard. The solution? We must unite our voices and become one voice. All disability organizations are motivated to attain accessibility for persons with disabilities, but we remain fragmented and our voices drown each other out. Instead, let’s become one so that our voice will be heard and we can transform the world so that all people benefit from access to whatever they desire. I will close with this quote from Robert F. Kennedy:

“Each time a person stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” 

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