Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The ADA, Japan, and L'Arche

Twenty six years ago yesterday, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed and signed into law. This piece of legislation prohibits the discrimination on the basis of disability in the workplace, State and local government, public buildings, transportation, and others. It was a big step forward in the recognition that people with disabilities are people, deserving of the same things as the rest of the world. Yesterday, in Japan, a man wielding a knife killed 19 people with disabilities and injured at least 26 others. It was claimed that he said, "It is better that disabled people disappear." It was a senseless tragedy, and one that we can all agree should not have happened. But if you talk to many people with disabilities, they'll say that they often feel invisible in our society. We live in a world built for and by people of "normal" abilities. Many places we go and things that we enjoy are not accessible to people with mobility impairments. People with developmental disabilities are often put places where they are out of the way, so that we don't have to acknowledge that they exist. Although we wouldn't go so far as that man wielding a knife, people with disabilities often receive the message that it would be better if they just disappeared. This is why I choose to be in L'Arche. Because it recognizes the gifts of people with disabilities. It says that not only are their lives important, but they are worth celebrating. It says that our lives are made better and richer by their presence. It says that we all, regardless of abilities, have gifts to share and are capable of contributing to the world around us. We are all important, we should all be recognized as valuable, none of us should just disappear. What happened in Japan was senseless. It was a horrible act of violence against people of unlimited value and worth. While there isn't anything I can do to change what happened, and not much I can do to ease the suffering of those who were directly impacted, what I can do is embrace those around me who are considered disabled, and let them know that they are not invisible to me. I see them, and know them, and love them.