Friday, August 31, 2007
A prayer for Jerry - and all of us
As blogger Wheelie Catholic, my first response was to pray for Jerry Lewis and all of us when I heard bloggers were speaking out against the annual MDA Labor Day Telethon. I join them. And yes, I know the telethon has helped many people over the years. I have no problem with raising money for MDA. My issue is how it's being done. Despite the ADA and advances we've made because of it, the telethon continues to portray people with disabilities as objects of pity. In this day and age, why is the poster child approach still being used?
Public perception about those of us with disabilities is beginning to change as we go out into the world more frequently. Americans see us in restaurants, movie theaters and other public places. We attend college in higher numbers and are continuing efforts to improve our representation in the job market. Our mobility—if we have the means—is at an all time high. We have better equipment, better care and live longer and healthier lives. Much of this is related to affording all that’s involved. Many Americans with disabilities, adults and children alike, may have the civil rights, but not the means to live fully with a disability. We can't afford what we need to do this.
Raising money to help disabled kids get the assistive devices they need and providing for their families is a worthy cause. I know the high cost of living with a disability because I live with quadriplegia. My sister and her family struggle financially as they raise a child with CP.
The charity model is not the solution. Why on earth would we teach children with disabilities that begging is the answer? Is that part of their IEP program? I don't think so. While it’s easier to fork over a check once a year than to commit to a community effort, let’s change our social programs so people with disabilities can attain a certain quality of life with dignity.
This is why I’m saying a prayer for Jerry Lewis — and for all of us. It's time to address the real problems and make some real changes. Let's grow up and discard the poster child model and start teaching all children that people with disabilities are not to be pitied, but respected.