Dr. Adolf Ratzka, Founder and Director of Independent Living Institute in Sweden contracted polio in his teens and remained immobilized in his wheelchair while facing many barriers and accomplishing a great deal.His words resonate with me.
and I quote
“As long as we regard our disabilities as tragedies, we will be pitied.
As long as we feel ashamed of who we are, our lives will be regarded as useless.
As long as we remain silent, we will be told by others what to do.”
In 2006, Kathy Laszlo and I cofounded a parent driven organization called DANI, (developing and nurturing independence.)
DANI encourages adults to recognize and empower their own voice and not remain silent. We help students transition after high school into adulthood; from a state of learned helplessness to self- advocacy;
The adults with disabilities in our community aspire to the same good life as their siblings or peers- however, we modify their route. Our adults wish to live in their comfortable neighbourhood enveloped by warmth and familiarity. Our adults have an innate desire to work and spend valuable and meaningful days developing and contributing to their own lives.
A few years ago, I contacted the nurses of the neonatal intensive care unit at the Hospital for Sick Children. I wanted to bring our adults back to the fragile start of their journey- where many had various convoluted tubes, shaved heads, weighed very little and had poor prospects. I wanted to show the nurses who their delicate infants had become- thriving motivated adults who are just starting to plan their lives.
DANI develops and nurtures independence.
Dr. Adolf Ratzka suggests that independence does not mean that we wish tolive and work in a segregated state of isolation without others. I would advocate that independence and inclusion are symbiotic. One cannot exist without the other and I feel that this concept is an unwritten ethical, moral and principled agreement of our entire kehillah- our community.