As we should all know by now, this month marks the Month Of The Disabled; and it’s that time when once again the disabled are highlighted and given the opportunity to showcase their talents, giftings and abilities, while increasing public awareness. Although personally I enjoy and understand all that this month brings, it always leaves a bitter/sweet taste in my mouth; especially when April comes around.
Like most things, whenever something is celebrated it seems that the very thing is forgotten once the time of celebration has passed. However, one of the things which I find most disheartening is the promises made. We have so much which needs to be done that it feels like a slap in the face when March goes and all the way in December we’re still awaiting promises made earlier up in the year.
Sometimes I get the feeling that people just go along with the concept of celebrating a thing just for the sake of it, but have no heart for that which is being celebrated.
I feel as though the disabled are a group of individuals who are a bother to some, pitied by others, and invisible to most. I don’t know if people see their scenarios as hopeless or not as important, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The disabled are very able where it counts the most, and that is in their hearts and minds; and while I know this sounds all nice and “flowery”, being able to see and experience those who are a bit different from us is a responsibility which should not and cannot rest solely on their shoulders.
I’ve seen just about every medium used to get across information to all and sundry, but when it comes to actually making a change for a better and more inclusive society, we’ve all horribly missed the mark. The disabled can preach till the cows come home, but until we take their message and make it a reality, our lives and nation will remain the same.
Of course, I will never paint everyone with the same brush because there are some out there who are responding and others who do their part in bringing about change in society. However, we must all be aware that it will take a united effort to bring about inclusion that will make us better as a people.
The call for interpreters for the deaf, education for all, assistive technology for those special needs students who only need something simple which would allow them to be included into the mainstream environment, transportation for those who need to get to various locations for different reasons such as doctor’s appointments, banks, therapy and so on, and a whole host of other things is something which is constantly repeated like a broken record, yet the struggle to acquire some of these things is huge.
Disabled people are not a charity case. They are not to be seen as “somebody else who wants money”, because when we go down that road I will challenge anyone about the various events and opportunities we give our money to. I’ve always heard something from the time I was a little girl which has proven to be as true as John 3:16, and that is “there is always money, it’s just who has it and where to look for it”.
I cannot remember ever seeing so much glamour, pomp and pageantry going into general elections as in recent times. Everything was bigger, better, more colourful and sometimes downright imposing. The extremes that individuals went to just to ensure a positive outcome on their behalf or even that of their party was amazing to watch.
While you may argue that events such as these are backed by individuals and various entities with a vested interest in a particular outcome, you cannot get away from the fact that it always comes down to a matter of interest and what someone will get in return.
Every year we have major events and activities where thousands of dollars are given just so people could have a good time, yet when the call is made to support an activity where the lives of others are positively impacted in a major way causing them to have a better life, it is ignored.
Until we give out of a sense of love, compassion and a desire to see the needs of others met, we will continue to miss the mark. Everywhere I turn I hear this call being made over the radio, TV, newspapers, and even in stores and supermarkets for the wider public to give to a cause, yet we roll our eyes and wonder why the disabled “always want money”. Well, if you gave it, they wouldn’t have to continually ask for it!
More important than money is the value we place on life. When we begin to place a high value on people, then we will act differently and respond accordingly. Truly, our actions speak louder than words when we invest our money in things and forget that there are those out there who are literally struggling to live their best life because they lack the very basics.
So while I too celebrate this month, my hope and prayer is that we answer the call and give of our time, money and resources where it counts the most –– people!
(Bonnie Leonce is a sign language interpreter with an Associate of Arts degree in interpreting training.
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