Disability is Diversity

Photo by Brook Tobin Photography

I was honored when Jessica Patay invited me to be part of this year’s We Are Brave Together photo session. I started working with the organization last fall. They provide support, low-cost retreats, and resources for moms of children with unique needs. I believe in their mission. If you know me, then you also know I am passionate about caregivers taking care of themselves. This past weekend while relaxing in Vegas (I practice what I teach), I received a link to the photos from the shoot. Brooke Tobin Photography did an incredible job capturing not only the vision and mission of We Are Brave Together, but the diversity.

As I looked through the images, I thought, these look like perfect stock photos. Some of you may not know this, but I have worked at a graphic design firm for over 17 years. Actually over twenty, but I took a little hiatus from the workforce when we learned Emily had significant delays. It was tough to work and get her to appointments and therapies. Anyway, that is a story for another day. I am the Accounting Manager at JDA, Inc. and I handle HR, payables, receivables, etc. I do all things accounting and nothing creative. My creative skills are limited to Canva, and even then, my son usually has to save me. Although I work on the admin side of the company, I have heard many conversations with clients about what they want (and what they don’t want) on projects our company completes. Clients often request campaigns that include people of different shapes, sizes, and skin tones. They want diversity represented in what is presented. The women in We Are Brave Together are diverse. We are all moms to children with disabilities. 

The Oxford Language site defines disability as a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.  Having a disability does not discriminate. Disability impacts people of all races, religions, geographic regions, and economic statuses. According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, 4 Reasons Why Businesses Should Care About Disability Issues, 61 million Americans have a disability. About 19% of the population has a mental or physical condition that limits them in some capacity. 

For the past several years, diversity has been highlighted in the news, the media, and social media platforms. I personally believe that diversity is paramount. We learn and grow when we open ourselves to things that are different from us. We can learn from those whose religion, culture, and beliefs differ from ours. We can also learn from those living with disabilities. When we discuss diversity, we must include the disabled population. Omitting the disabled in the diversity conversation is a mistake. There is a long line of discrimination against those with disabilities. Until recently, children with severe disabilities would be put in institutions and removed from society. In many parts of the world, they still are. What a tragedy. 

As we challenge our biases, let’s include a conversation about bias toward those with disabilities. Sometimes, we are scared of things we do not understand. Other times we do not see a need to make changes to accommodate or make our world accessible to a small percentage of the population. Often people with severe disabilities are discounted or discarded as if they have nothing to contribute. The issues are complicated and complex. I do not pretend to have the answers, and I have only my perspective to bring to the table. I firmly believe that if we do not adapt our world to include those with disabilities, we all lose. Emily may not be able to contribute by discovering a cure for cancer or ending our dependence on fossil fuels, but she can teach us to be more tolerant. She can show the world what it is to love unconditionally. She can show others how to slow down and be present. Every human has value and worth. Every person has something to offer. If the goal is diversity and inclusion, that must include the disabled community. In the words of my friend Effie Parks, “Disability is Diversity”.

Published by bshort1968

I am a self-described caregiver. I love to help and care for others. I have learned the value of caring for myself as well. Now I want to live my life helping others learn to care for others and take care of themselves as well.

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