25 Years After the ADA: What Kind of Advocate Am I ?

Starting on the first of this month, I began posting statuses on my Facebook that talked about something that I was able to enjoy or something that in some way was made possible for me by the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was my way of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the bill being passed and a way to remind myself how much I had to be grateful for. I listed one item a day (or several on the occasions where I had missed days). These ranged from my accessible apartment to being able to marry my husband last year. Every day my list grew, each post ending with #25yearslater #celebrateADA. This was, I thought, a great little personal activity and a good way to celebrate something that in many ways, has given me the life I have.

But in the last couple of days I have begun to second guess myself. After seeing some opinions posted by a fellow advocate and Facebook friend, I can’t help but rethink my actions. The ideas expressed were along the line that celebration of the ADA could not really happen until the entire disability community could take full advantage of it.

After giving this some thought I now feel that instead of celebrating my life and my achievements thanks to the ADA, my posts are being blatantly dismissive of people with disabilities who have not had the same successes and who struggle with issues I’ve never had to face. And that is definitely not something I want to promote.

I  consider myself to be an advocate both for myself and others in the disability community. This mentality grew from my learning to express and get my own needs met at a young age. I have always supported the right of people to be independent and to be given the right of autonomy. That being said, those are things that to some degree I have always had.

I have always been able to be very independent. Never being in special education, I graduated high school and went on to college and remained completely in charge of taking care of myself on a daily basis. After college I got married and my husband and I moved into an apartment where we have lived, still with me receiving no outside help from someone hired to help see to my daily care.

Getting married did lead to the suspension of my government assistance, something that many people with disabilities live in fear of. I no longer receive social security benefits nor do I have medicaid coverage. This has put a strain on me but at present it does not hinder my daily existence as it would someone who relied on medicaid to provide in home care.

And therein lies my current inner struggle. Can I, should I, be so blatant in talking about the gratitude I have for my independence? Or does the fact that a majority of the  community that  I claim membership to cannot negate that conversation? Can I still be an advocate and live my life, or does enjoying my independence make me a bad leader?

Further do I have more of a right to argue against issues that I have faced personally or is it my responsibility to evoke change on every level for everyone?

I have always been more vocal on subjects that have affected me personally. But that is because I could speak to that experience.  I always thought it better to work in my niche rather than fight an issue I didn’t fully understand. But now I’m not so sure.

I guess the bottom line is that I want to be considered an effective advocate and someone who can make a difference for people with disabilities. And maybe I’m doing that already. But I’ve realized that there are other ways to go about the task of affecting change and other ways to talk about the movement toward equal rights of people with disabilities. My question, is my way wrong just because others exist.

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