This is the third of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, it's more of a mini-paper that is interesting on its own.
In this one, she talks more about researching her own schooling and the impact of polio and the Vietnam war on public attitudes toward the disabled.
The photo is of Mom reading a birthday card on a 2006 to see us out here.
I was newly energized after our meeting. I know I need to look up the law for accurate dates on my timeline. I still have not been able to get with someone at the school on our district's policy on mainstreaming; and what is expected of each student that is mainstreamed. I feel good in the fact that the majority of the schools here are accessible to most disabilities. My school that I grew up in my hometown is not. It still has all the steps, etc. It has been interesting talking to my family about when I started school. I talked to my oldest sister yesterday. She was already gone away from home when I started school; but I asked her if there were any conversations regarding whether I should go to school or what should be done. She said that there were no objections that she heard of. In fact, she was amazed at how well I fit into the school. Remember I was carried the first year of school. There were times when one of the nuns carried me to recess, etc. I wish that I could talk to that nun, but I'm sure she is no longer with us, or that she would remember me would be most unlikely. I may try to talk to a teacher or two to get a reaction from them on what they could do in a similar situation today.
I'm not sure that I want to dwell on that, however. I think I want to go basically to attitudes now with teachers and students with mainstreaming. Has it been made easier for either of them. What of the attitudes of the students if the teacher is disabled. Is there more to prove here on the part of the teacher. Is she or he taken seriously by the students. Does mainstreaming of all students help this? Sitting along side of a disabled student is one thing; but working along side a disabled worker, better yet, competing with a disabled worker for a position, can be quite another thing.
Imagine for a moment campaigning for president against President Roosevelt, and have his disability made an issue. What if someone on the opposite side said, "He can't be president, he can't even get into the White House without help. He probably can't even take care of his own personal needs. Why he needs help with everything. There is no way he can be president." Yet history has recorded that he not only was elected president, but became one of our nation's greatest presidents. I have done some research on his presidency. I firmly believe that the public did not know that he was disabled, nor how serious. All the campaign pictures were carefully staged. I'm not saying that was wrong, as America was not ready for that kind of revelation. There was so much trouble on the home front with The Great Depression, and all that, what America needed was a strong individual to fill that bill. The people's vision of a strong man was not one in a wheelchair. By the time the average American found out, it didn't matter. They saw what he could do.
President Roosevelt had Infantile Paralysis, another name for polio. The polio epidemic hit the country in the late '20s and lasted quite a while, leaving lasting impressions. Many people died and it left many children with seemingly little future. Franklin Roosevelt was already educated when the disease hit him. He also had monetary resources to help get the proper equipment to conquer the disease. I did see some news clippings from the '20s saying that his political career was over. As his health improved, however, he decided to run for governor of New York. Again, he already had built up the education and confidence of the people. Imagine starting from the beginning. He never would have been president.
Now let's go back to the many small children who also had polio about this same time. There was really nowhere for them to go to school. The few who could get around on their own, probably went to public schools. I'm not sure yet, but my guess is that many stayed home or were put into homes with retarded children. At some point in time, whether it be legislation or what, I'm not sure yet, the idea was brought forward to have Crippled Children Schools. In South Dakota, ours opened in the early '50s. These schools gave the kids the education that was required by law. I'm not sure that they challenged their minds. Some of these kids were capable of much more scholastically.
Don't get me wrong, these schools were certainly better than nothing and since schools were not built for wheelchairs, there had to be a compromise. The main part I do not like, is that it segregated these kids. A whole generation grew up not needing to think of working with, or socializing with disabled people. This is basically the generation that are running things today.
While I credit the polio epidemic and drugs like the thalidamide drug with helping the country even think about educating our disabled young people, I also credit the Vietnam veterans for bringing the government backing and research to the programs of higher education and getting the legislation for us to work with. Much of the "hardware" that the disabled use, has been perfected by and for the veterans. Things like bracing, streamlined wheelchairs, and the had controls used to drive the car. The VA has furnished many wheelchair accessible vans for the vets, complete with lifts and hand controls.
Connie, Feb. 6, 1994