Many adults I talk with argue that inclusion is cruel and that children with disabilities simply cannot get all they need in inclusion classrooms. This is not the first time we have used this approach in education. Remember Lester Maddox? He believed in separate but equal, and was very outspoken about it. He believed, as did many in our nation, that Blacks were not as capable as Whites, and therefore needed special schools to accommodate them. Remember Ross Barnett? He did everything he could to refuse admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi. These beliefs about Blacks being lesser grew from fear and ignorance, not from absolute fact.
For people with disabilities, society uses everything from wheelchairs to MRIs in order to support their notion of the separate but equal approach in special education. People with disabilities, like myself, fight everyday for our square of earth and our voices to be heard. We own businesses, we hold college degrees, we advocate, and we live full, rich lives. We yearn for a day when we are not seen as three-fifths a person.
The fight is paying off. This generation has seen more inclusion than any generation previous. Seniors this year are graduating in a nation with our second-term Black President, Barack Obama; with an openly gay Episcopal Bishop, Gene Robinson; and a female, double-amputee veteran of war as US Representative, Tammy Duckworth. These amazing achievers fill me with a powerful drive and a sense of dignity that I have been denied most of my life.
I must say I felt honored when I was invited to moderate a discussion at Paideia School in Atlanta by high school senior and activist, Susannah. She has organized the Dignity Revolution Film Festival to advocate for the dignity of every person, regardless of ability. I am proud to do my part and feel a renewed energy knowing that this generation is “getting it” about disabilities and they are not afraid to take action and speak loudly.
Join us for a great day of celebration and awe. I hope to see you there!
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