Today we observe International Day of Persons with Disabilities. For parents of children and adults in the United States, it is a day when we continue to try to improve the special education and support systems to ensure the dignity of life for our loved-ones.
There is an alternative life - one that we parents in America would not want to imagine, as summed up in the opening line from an article from Tanzania:
"They spend most of their time on the streets desperately hunting for their daily bread. Yes. From merciful able- bodied passers-by."
Now that is a life none of us is planning for our children.
I recently learned that parents of children with special needs in Singapore must pay out of pocket for every single service for their children. Nothing is covered by insurance and schools are not required to provide services. If parents are told their child needs an evaluation, the parent must pay for that.
In Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, one writer says, "children with disabilities are often abandoned or neglected since they are seen as consumers of precious resources who can contribute little to the family."
That is a statement that would cause major protests in America.
While we American families do face many challenges, we have indeed improved the potential of the lives of our children for decades to come. It is often parents who have led the charge for change in America, which is another often-forgotten fact.
On this day, Americans have an obligation to remember that we can continue to show the world by example that people with disabilities should be fully included and supported. We do that by continuing to fight the good fight for all concerned.
Today, envision an America where every parent can see their child with special needs living their fullest potential. Do it for America. Do it for children in Haiti, Singapore, and Tanzania.