The International Day for People with Disability

Did you know that there is an International Day for People with Disabilities? I didn’t. Not until this year, though I have been a part of the community of people with disabilities for over 16 years now. Yet, the annual observance of the day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1992…just two years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. The purpose of the day is to promote the rights and well-being of people with disabilities in all spheres of developing society and to increase awareness of the situations of people with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s theme for this year’s day is “Building Back Better: Toward a Disability-Inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post-COVID-19 World”.

My awareness of the international community of people with disabilities began to awaken this past year, during the pandemic, when I responded to a request on LinkedIn from a Rotary Club that was putting together a committee of people with disabilities to help them be more welcoming and inclusive as an organization. The response was overwhelming, and soon an international discussion about disabilities began to take place on weekly zoom meetings. At a global level we are experiencing the impact of the pandemic on the human rights of people with disabilities, especially in regard to inclusion and accessibility.

Through this, I have begun to see the community of people with disabilities in a different light. When I lost my legs in a vehicle fire, I became an amputee and a burn survivor. Sixteen years ago, I found myself embraced first by the burn survivor community, then, in time, through advocacy efforts I became connected with the amputee community. For years I viewed disabilities as their own separate groups of people with their own unique challenges. As it is with individuals living in a shared household, there absolutely is that aspect, but we are also part of a larger family of diverse disabilities.

Through my experiences over the past year, I have begun to recognize that every person with a disability, whether they are born with disabilities or acquire them through the trauma of life and aging, are part of a global culture that has a shared history dating back to before we began to measure time. Though that shared history is one largely of oppression and ostracization, civil rights movements and progressive legislation in many countries has opened the door to the beginnings of an inclusive world where people with disabilities are represented in leadership. That said, there are still cultures where a disability is seen as the result of some supernatural curse or punishment from God for some misperceived sin in this life or a previous one. There is still a lot of work to do, at home and abroad.

Disabilities are part of the human condition and where once upon a time they were used to separate us, I believe we are now moving into a time where growing understanding and inclusion will show how our various disabilities and our individual approach to addressing them can truly unify us. It has been an honor to be a part of the Rotary Disability Advisory Group and to connect with other people with disabilities around the world. As we began the international discussion about disability awareness and inclusion, we became aware of how important the ongoing conversation is. In record time, the group developed the first virtual international Rotary Club of World Disability Advocates, of which I am proud to be one of the Charter Members. Disability Rights are truly a matter of Human Rights, and that’s the mission of this international club.

It is through this organization that I learned of the International Day of People with Disability, which was last Friday. It was my intent to publish this post last week, on the actual day, but Covid intervened, and instead I found myself sitting in a car outside the hospital while my beloved wife was receiving a monoclonal antibody infusion to help her fight off the infection and prevent more severe symptoms than what she was already experiencing. I even brought my laptop so I could work on this post while I waited, but the battery decided that I wouldn’t get any work done that afternoon. I couldn’t go in because I was still in my own quarantine and recovering from my own Covid case, which presented on the day before Thanksgiving, leading to a complete change in holiday plans for four different households. Irena, my stepson Cameron, and I enjoyed a 23lb turkey originally meant to serve up to16 people! (By the way, we both received our second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in mid-April but had not had an opportunity to get our boosters yet, so these are breakthrough cases. My stepson, who has quarantined with us, received his original vaccine doses later in the year and the efficacy of his vaccine seems to remain strong, as he has not contracted the virus).

Over the weekend we were focused on our mutual recovery, rather than work, and I didn’t have a chance to write about the International Day of People with Disability earlier this week because, I’m proud to announce that Walking Spirit has taken on a new client! I have been retained by Advocate’s Home Health Care, an approved Medicaid Waiver service provider, to provide outreach services on their behalf. They have specifically asked me to find people who are currently providing volunteer non-skilled care to family or community members whom either are currently or may be eligible for services under the Medicaid Waiver. If the person they are providing care for is eligible, then Advocate’s Home Health Care is able to pay their care provider, or providers, $12 an hour for up to 40 hours a week. They are also able to provide training to non-skilled care providers if they are interested in becoming a skilled Home Health Aide, which can earn higher pay. If you know anyone who has decided to sacrifice work hours to provide care for a family member or friend experiencing a disability or conditions of aging, please send them my way, as we may be able to help.

Learning more about Medicaid, the Medicaid Waiver, and researching the best organizations to reach out to for Advocate’s has been the focus of my time this week. As a result, I thought the opportune time for the post about the International Day of People with Disability had passed. It was a subject that I would revisit in a year, and that just didn’t sit right with me. Then, late last night, through the Rotary Club, I received a link to a YouTube video that made this post all the more relevant. Because of the delay in writing this post, I’m thrilled to share with you one of the events that occurred last week in honor of the International Day of People with Disability!

Please enjoy this inclusive dance presentation, which includes an associate of the Rotary Club of World Disability Advocates, from Uganda…

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