As an individual with a disability, or even the parent of a special needs child, it is still important to make and keep resolutions. Why not make stronger awareness of your Self and create means of awareness of disability for others your resolution. Teach others about your own or your child’s disability and abilities!
It’s become a normal way of life trying hard to understand why employers and teachers do not recognize the great value of people with great abilities – the largest minority group crossing all minority groups in the world. We, people with all disabilities, are the largest group unemployed in the United States today. It is so frustrating, but we must press on!
I wish I could snap my fingers and all misconceptions, exclusion and stereotypes would stop, but it takes time. For this New Year’s resolutions, we as people with disabilities should recognize the world can’t change overnight and not without our hands on the wheel. We must drive the change together! We can no longer sit back and wait for change to be handed to us. We must create the change, be the change, as Mohandas Gandhi said of his people’s movement. One by one, we have the power to create great change. For far too long, we have waited for the veil of discrimination to fall on its own. That will not happen. We must rip the veil away ourselves. We must take our place in the community as active citizens of the world, not just wait to be invited to the table.
I choose to focus this year on five ways we, as individuals with disabilities can begin to work on becoming agents of change and growth. Focus with me. Don’t wait for others to change. Begin with you!
Our first resolution must be about our self image. So much can happen if we turn off the negative self-talk, mute out the pitying comments and negative “burden speak” we hear from others who don’t understand our lives. We have a multitude of strengths and dreams to bring into being. We have far much to give and to gain to allow others to make us feel inferior. We are not inferior in any way; we are just people with disabilities. We can and do participate in the same gainful life activities as anyone else, just in different ways. We are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives and husbands, lovers and friends. We are just as capable of care-giving as well as receiving love and care. We are volunteers and charity providers, not just receivers in need. Find your role models, or in my case as a wheelchair user, “roll” models.
Second, we’ve got to continue improving our skills. I don’t care if it means taking on new hobbies, taking classes, volunteering. We must find out what employers are seeking and if there are skills we do not have, get them. If you do not have the right skill set, you will never be employed competitively. Take that computer class at the library. Read voraciously. Learn another language. Volunteer. Get to know people out in the community and learn what they do for a living; ask to shadow them at work or intern.
Next, network. Get out there and meet people. We won’t change how people perceive us if we continue to hide under rocks or stay locked up in our homes. Sure, some of us need to spend some time at home because of transportation barriers or health reasons make it necessary to lie in bed, but stay in touch with family and friends. Encourage visitors and ask friends if you can go with them places. Get active on the internet. Join online social networks that share your interests and skills for work opportunities. And there are plenty for classes that can be taken online as well.
Fourth, never underestimate the opportunity to volunteer. To build character, you must volunteer and give back to the community that has done at least something for you. When you get involved and do volunteer work in your community, you will shatter the stereotype that people with disabilities not only receive help but also give it. You’ll also meet people in high places connected in the working world.
Last, but not least, be a better advocate for yourself and others. We can’t wait for change to happen around us, we’ve got to make it happen. To create change, become an advocate for equality for Americans with disabilities, in the areas of employment, education, transportation, housing, services and social arenas. Join your community’s advocacy groups. Attend town and county board meetings when an accessibility issue is on the agenda or put it on the agenda and ask to speak! Volunteer to speak at your school, college, or house of worship. Take the opportunity to volunteer with non-profit organizations in your community or volunteer as a surviving example of your disability at civilian and veteran hospitals to serve as a resource for survivors and parents with children facing your challenges.
This post originally written as New Year’s Resolutions for 2010 by Monica J. Foster as a guest author to the site Bella Online. Edited by Connections Administrator. To read the full post visit 5 Disability New Year’s Resolutions