We all want a future filled with inclusivity. So what will it take for us to get there?
In the past decade or so, many of us have started thinking more about what it means to be equal and inclusive. A slowly shifting attitude towards disability, along with discussions and actions, has started to turn the tide against exclusion and discrimination. But the truth is that we’re still a long way off from achieving true inclusion in all aspects of life.
A History of Exclusion
For many years, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities were seen as lesser-than. They were treated brutally, separated from their communities, and callously institutionalized.
Perhaps the most egregious example of modern times was the Willowbrook State School, established post-WWII. The institute attained an unsavory reputation, but for years, no one knew how bad conditions really were. A shocking 1972 news report by Geraldo Rivera exposed the squalid establishment that housed thousands of intellectually and developmentally disabled youths and adults. The horrific exposé helped shift the perception about how American society at large treated those living with disabilities.
Of course, members of the disability community had long been aware of their own disempowerment, mistreatment, and neglect, and were hardly passive participants in the burgeoning disability rights movement. Disabled activists had been leading the charge on disability rights for many years, but disability activism truly blossomed during the parallel civil rights movements of the 1960s.
Disability in the Present
These days, the discrimination is not quite so stark as it once was. There are no poorhouses or Willowbrook-esque institutions, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work that still needs to be done. The disability care field is in dire need of financial support and new hires. Staff turnover remains quite high.
Many individuals with disabilities are overwhelmingly underemployed, despite being willing and able to work. Integrated social programming is lacking, as the ones that do exist can only do so much. At ILA, we remain committed to providing multiple opportunities for Individuals to thrive in the community.
It may be slow and incremental, but change is coming: together, we can keep shattering barriers and move one step closer towards inclusion. Part of that change comes with education, a more inclusive mindset, and continued support for the disabled community.
To learn more about ILA, or to become a donor and make a difference in the lives of hundreds of developmentally disabled Individuals, please visit ilaonline.org.