This letter isn’t about appreciating your child. It’s not about loving your child, it’s not about protecting your child or about fighting for access for your child.
I know you do all of that already.
This is also not about pointing fingers or trying to shame or make you feel bad.
You don’t need that.
But I want you to understand something. I want you to understand that equal access for your child needs to spill over to equal access for everyone with a disability.
How can you say that closed captions “cost too much” and dismiss the subject – then in the next breath, talk about the supports your child has a right to receive in school?
How can you host an event which is held on the second floor of a building which only has stairs – and then talk about the discrimination that your child faces?
How can you suggest to meet in a loud, crowded, busy restaurant – and then be upset with the lack of consideration shown to your child?
These signs have faces behind them.
They are symbols of people, real live people. People who yearn to be accepted, appreciated, contributing, loved. People with hearts, brains, strength and ability.
These signs represent people like ME; people who are included in the conversation up to the entrance – then the door is slammed in our face because we can’t get through the door.
And we can’t access it because it’s not convenient for you.
So you let us stand outside and call that friendship.
Why then should the school district, an employer, a friend, a family, anyone make accommodations for your child? Disability is not usually convenient, is it?
Please….I want you to think about the broader picture of access and inclusion. I would love for you to think of it in the way that you want people to think of your child, the way that you want the world to include your child.
I know you try. And I know you care.
Which is why I am writing this: if your actions are only going to include access and accommodation insofar as your own child is concerned, then you are not truly contributing to the disability rights movement.
To use an analogy: it’s like your child is black and you have worked to allow your child to drink in one “whites only” fountain – but every other black person needs to wait by the wayside, thirsty.
It’s when we think about all disability, it’s when we try and make our society fully accessible for all, it’s when we open our own arms and thinking and include all and make sure that no one – NO ONE!! – is left out that we are affecting change on a societal level.
That’s when we are really practicing what we peach; that’s really walking the talk.
And then – only then – will no one be thirsty.
Then – and only then – can we move forward as one, an equal society with a culture that stands by all.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.