The photo is of the fulfillment of one of those dreams, from a trip to St. Louis in 1991.
The advances in prosthetics alone has improved life of the artificial limb user. Many times they can simulate the actual limb. Sometimes they can get so proficient at walking that it is difficult to tell that it is an artificial limb, if you don't know already. There are still many areas of improvement that we don't know about.
Not the least of which is the exposure. They are responsible for bringing disabilities to the forefront. We missed an excellent chance with President Roosevelt, as no one knew of the extent of his disability. Even today, it is difficult for me to realize what he must have gone through from his critics. Maybe it was too early in the game for some discussion with him about his disability. Maybe the country wasn't ready. Disabled people were still viewed as helpless and with no brain. I might add that Mr. Roosevelt was educated before his disease incapacitated him, and would qualify as a newly disabled.
A report on the Working Group with The Department of Veteran Affairs, states:
Our society has always had a tendency to shun those who are different. The disabled create fear, make us uncomfortable and may even embarrass us. In recent years society as a whole has become much more accepting of the disabled individual. Great strides have been made to allow the disabled individual to become an acceptable member of mainstream society. As professionals and individuals we would like to think we have made similar strides as well. (P14)Due to the Vietnam vets' persistence, I feel that they are responsible for getting much of the needed legislation passed. In 1973, The Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) was passed (Least Restrictive Environment, 8.2). This act helped place the student in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Because of this law, all new public buildings being built had to have accessibility features. Unfortunately, it has taken years to get the "trickle down effect" to show up in many smaller towns and smaller buildings.
In 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed (Family Support Bulletin). This included businesses and concentrated on employment. It covered in detail what questions can be asked on an interview and what an employer will be expected to offer a perspective employee. The employer must make reasonable accommodations for the disabled employee. Again the vets are responsible for bringing all of this to the forefront.
I feel that disabled people for a long time have been shut up. We have been put on the shelf to live out the days, much like many elderly persons are written off as old and of no value. The unfortunate part is that the disabled have been written off sooner, when the person is much younger. There is no source of confidence building here. Many times we have to prove ourselves to be worthy of an interview, to say nothing of the job itself. Most employers are very uncomfortable with this kind of interview.
One thing that I have learned through this research is that it is okay for us to feel sorry for someone worse off than we are. Even I tend to feel sorry for these children who seem to be in another world. All I can imagine is the life or opportunities that these kids must miss, like communicating with family and friends, or thinking and reading about something of interest. How can they tell you what interests them? There are many disabled children who do grow up and learn to communicate with others.
Love and discipline can do wonders for seemingly hopeless situations. The thing to remember is that there is always something that can be tried. We have to keep an open mind. There may be some teachers who have a little trouble with these students in their classroom. Just remember, treat them as children. After all, that is what they are. In some cases, they know much more than what you are trying to teach them. They cannot communicate in the ordinary ways. Their methods will be extraordinary. After the year is finished you may wonder who has done the teaching, and who has done the learning. This child may have taught you a lot that you had not planned on.
Lastly, when you meet a disabled person at your workplace or anywhere, treat them with respect. That is all we ask. We need to get rid of the stereotypes of the "poor little child in the wheelchair." We have identities, we are people, and we are productive citizens.
I was reminded recently of a conversation I had with a friend in approximately 1969. I had done some sewing for her and she was there to pick it up. We got to talking and I told her that I had three goals for my life: one that I wanted to marry, two that I wanted to have children, and three, that I wanted to go to college. To me, these were not unrealistic goals. She, I learned later, cried on the way home thinking I would never reach any of these goals. Well, I not only reached them, but I now have even loftier goals. The sky's the limit, as they say.