Our nation celebrates its Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4th. We celebrate the idea that this nation wanted to be free from rules, regulations, and laws created without input from the Colonies.
We also celebrate the concept that each person has equality in the eyes of the law. Although many have tramped upon this basic concept throughout our history, its promise has survived thanks to the sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears of many.
As we celebrate Independence Day, we need to remember what we are celebrating and why. We need to remember the sacrifices of those who have died for the concepts of independence, liberty, and freedom. We must also remember that the fight is not over for people with disabilities, and, indeed, remember that the fight is only beginning for many of us.
The promise has been slow in coming for people with disabilities, and for many of us, equality is still not here, is still a concept enjoyed by others, and is a promise that still needs to be kept.
The promise is a lofty one, yet for some people with disabilities the promise translates into more practical considerations: the freedom to make choices in their daily lives, to be responsible for their lives, and to be a contributing part of their community.
Freedom and independence are grand sounding words, but for some they mean the right to do simple tasks. Freedom and independence are empty and hollow words when a debate about the worthiness of the lives of people with disabilities is encouraged by silence in one of our nation’s oldest institutions of higher learning.
Expecting the promise of freedom to be kept without struggle and sacrifice is foolhardy. Again, our history teaches that participatory governance over oneself or one’s country means stepping up to participate and sacrifice. Individuals must take up the cause of freedom, work together, and battle for the promise to be kept. This is true now for people with disabilities. The pictures below show the most recent participation through peaceful disobedience at our Nation’s Capitol.
So, while we celebrate what happened 241 years ago, let us remember for many of us with disabilities the struggle for freedom continues!