As you know, FACT Oregon works tirelessly to assist families raising a child experiencing disability. Yet underneath all the trainings, workshops, and events in the community, it is – and has always been – our goal to positively influence perceptions of disability.
People experiencing disability not only have a right to a free appropriate public education, but ultimately they have a rightful place in society as contributing, competent, and included citizens. Thankfully, there are people like YOU and your family members who feel the same way.
I’d like to share one story from a man helping change those perceptions.
I am getting on the bus that I get on every day to go to school, but it is packed more so than usual. Instead of finding a seat, I just go stand by the back door. Observing the people around me, like I normally do (I am a people watcher), I notice that there is a special education class on board. I know this because there are 6 older women “shepherding” the 6 kids with disabilities.
Now, because this bus was much busier than usual, not all the kids were able to sit next to one of the chaperones. One kid was sitting next to an unrelated younger woman who was just checking stuff on her phone. The older women in charge were trying to get out his laptop so that they could keep him busy, but he was quite distracted by the younger woman’s phone. He would lean in close to her and smile when she would do something. This woman had a unique smile on her face while all this was going on; it was clear she was happy to be able to assist this young gentleman in his bus ride distractions. Little did she know that her smile lit up my day. It really resonated in me. It gave me some hope.
When some riders got off at the next stop, the teacher had the student come join her. When she had gotten him seated, she leaned over to the younger woman and said, “Thank you for tolerating him.” My good feelings and hope from the scene before were all gone. The woman put in charge of caring for this young man’s life, his future, thinks that the people around him tolerate him.
That word, tolerate, I can’t stand it. Saying this does not only affect the way that this young man will think society looks at him, but it does not help in changing the way society does look at him. This young woman was not tolerating him – she was enjoying his company!
Change in society is going to happen by people who demonstrate the proper way – no, not even the proper way – the NORMAL way to act around those with disabilities. Which for those of you who do not know, it is to just act normal.
I am certain this story resonates with you just as it did with me. I am proud of the author, who happens to be my son Jay. Together with his brother who experiences disability, I have no doubt they will help change the world. Besides empowering our children experiencing disabilities, seeing a child’s sibling take up the charge of promoting inclusion is a FACT parent’s proud moment.
Won’t you join FACT Oregon in our endeavor? Help us change perceptions and create hope by supporting our work with a charitable donation this holiday season.
If you would like to make a year-end financial contribution, learn about volunteering opportunities, or offer in-kind support, please visit our Support FACT! page, or contact us at 888-988-3228, [email protected].
We are so grateful for this opportunity to continue working towards the goal of empowering Oregon families experiencing disability. On behalf of FACT Oregon’s board of directors, staff, and volunteers, we wish you a joyous holiday season!