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INDEPENDENCE DAY!

I could not agree more with every one of the sentiments and laments described in so many of the posts and on social media pertaining to the subject of Independence Day I have read from yesterday based on all of our collective current experiences  These same experiences have led to the following: I have literally cried. I have literally laughed out loud (not easy for a quadriplegic). I have believed that the unbelievable wasn’t happening when it has and continues to do so.

Nevertheless, strangely, though, I want all of us People with Disabilities, [1] to know I woke up yesterday morning and this morning with a different thought in my head:

People with Disabilities struggle. We fight. People with Disabilities need the law changed. We change the law. People with Disabilities want to work. We get jobs. People with Disabilities want access to transportation. We access transportation. People with Disabilities want access to housing. We fight like hell to get housing. People with Disabilities don’t like who is in office. We teach politicians, work on campaigns, run for office, and most importantly, we vote. People with Disabilities’ independence is interfered with. We force you to give us the independence you have. Even we, People with Disabilities, have taken to whining. People with Disabilities, stop it!

Here is the question I pose: Are People with Disabilities in the United States of America more independent than we were 28 years ago? The answer to this question is an obvious and resounding, “YES!” Even so, it has been a very rocky ride. It remains a rocky ride. We have an enormous amount of work to do. People with Disabilities, let’s continue to do the work.  Nevertheless, it has paid off. So, keep doing it! (Compare the timeline to the struggle for civil rights of African Americans and people who are black for perspective; what do we have in common? We fight!)

When I broke my neck 32 years ago in the great state of South Carolina, I thought (as almost everyone did then and, still, the majority of people think now), it was over for me. Despite attitudes and barriers, I lived. Despite attitudes and barriers, I went to college. Despite attitudes and barriers, I got a law degree. Despite attitudes and barriers, I humbly submit CCDC and with the help of its Legal Program and all of the current and past cases  (and all of our many friends who have helped, both in the legal community, the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, Disability Law Colorado, Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, Advocacy Denver — to name just a few — and otherwise outside the legal community) have said, “Screw your attitude and your barriers and the Telethon you rode in.” [2] We will be independent. I did not know what a “disability rights” advocate was. And yet I was one. I did not know what the “disability community” was. And yet I became a part of it without even trying. I am and will remain independent! My life will not be restricted to the making the tile trivet the occupational therapist at Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital said was a good use of my time and helpful for my future endeavors.

Yesterday was not the day to spend time wallowing in lost challenges. Today and tomorrow are not the days to spend time being complacent. Today and tomorrow are not the days to say, “Enough is enough; we can’t do this anymore.” We have. We can. We will.

Independence Day is the time to relish the victories. They are many. Hopefully, you put some relish on your hot dog while you were thinking about it. I also think about all of those People with Disabilities who came before me and fought for their independence and mine. I thank you more than you’ll ever know.

CCDC will keep fighting for the independence of People with Disabilities. And so will you. You know it!

In Congress, July 4, 1776 [as amended by this author on July 4 and 5, 2018].

The unanimous Declaration of [People with Disabilities and] the [fifty] united States of America [and all of its unincorporated territories and other possessed lands], When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands [and efforts of all others who have created the need for us to fight for our independence] which have connected them with [those in government and all others who oppose our reality and very existence], a decent respect to the opinions of [hu]mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to [continue fighting like hell for their independence, they will do so].

Declaration of Independence, United States of America.

As People with Disabilities:

  • We declare we will receive all healthcare and attendant care we need.
  • We declare we will work with the supports we might need to do so.
  • We declare we will receive quality education.
  • We declare we will access and use public transportation equally.
  • We declare we will join you in all places of public accommodation on an equal level.
  • We declare we will enjoy all of the same public facilities on an equal level with all other people.
  • We declare we will be provided reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures as needed to ensure our equality.
  • We declare we will have communication that is as effective as communication provided to non-disabled people.
  • We declare we will live in our own homes.
  • We declare we will decide who our attendants are and how they meet our needs.
  • We declare no decision will ever be made about us without our input and involvement.
  • We declare we will represent ourselves and our inalienable rights will be represented in government.
  • We declare you will accept that we are people, entitled to the same inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just as you.
  • We declare we are and will be independent.

People with Disabilities: keep getting off of your asses (so to speak) and do what all People do. If you are prohibited from doing so, make it happen.  As our history demonstrates, we will not sit idly by. We will take action.

Don’t mess with us, because we are going to keep doing it. You have not, and you will not stop us. Stop trying. You won’t win. We are independent. We will stay that way. Fighting for our independence became necessary a long time ago. We have been and are impelled to do so. We will.

Kevin W. Williams, Legal Program Director. Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition,  July 5, 2018

 

[1] Please note that when CCDC talks about “People with “Disabilities,” we are talking about friends, family members, and all of our partners in very many ways who have experienced the same indignities and have rejected the same in the name of independence.

[2] We have also said, “Piss on your Pity!” Frankly. equality means People with Disabilities don’t want anything “trickling down” on us.


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