Public Spaces

I am so jazzed about Outdoors for All.

They’re a nonprofit that celebrates people with disabilities and gets kids out on bikes, kayaks, swimming, rock climbing, and in winter, on skis, snowshoes, you name it.

Yesterday, they held an Adaptive Bike Day at the park where kids with disabilities were invited to ride 3-wheeled bikes. Seeing those kids looping around the park on bikes made me realize Outdoors for All says to kids, clearly and boldly: YES YOU CAN.

It’s just so cool because a lot of places still say NO YOU CAN’T to people with disabilities. We’re still fighting for our rights in public spaces, like school, for one…

And what did you do today, Ms. Sweeney?
Oh! I’m glad you asked! I spent half of it composing a letter to our school principal & Special Education teacher with a cc to the school psychologist, outlining ways in which the Special Ed students can be more involved in the full life of school, and not so isolated, in their separate classroom with their separate activities.

You spent half the day writing a letter?
Well, words count, and I have to put things just so for the principal & our teacher, who I happen to like. For instance, even though school isn’t doing enough to integrate the children, you have to position it like they’re making a good effort. You can’t start on the attack.

You have to tell the story of the bike day above, and say things like “I’m sure we agree that school is also a place that should say to him: YES YOU CAN,” when in truth you could rattle off 5 ways they muffed it up last year. You have to ask so nicely if they’re considering Unified Drama, and point out that the high school runs it, when inside you’re screaming “Why don’t you have this yet? Why were there ZERO kids from Special Ed in the school play last spring?!?”

You have to tell the story of the bike day above, and say things like “I’m sure we agree that school is also a place that should say to him: YES YOU CAN,” when in truth you could rattle off 5 ways they muffed it up last year. You have to ask so nicely if they’re considering Unified Drama, and point out that the high school runs it, when inside you’re screaming “Why don’t you have this yet? Why were there ZERO kids from Special Ed in the school play last spring?!?”

Unified Drama?
A Unified activity is one that blends all kids and is a great friendship builder. It grows out of Special Olympics — Unified Sports.

I’m just making the point that as parents, we have to spend more time trying to set up activities that celebrate and include our kids — and then we have to monitor them to make sure they succeed. The General Ed parents don’t have to take the time to do this.

This may sound harsh, but unless you too, are busy filing appeals to the health insurance company or asking the Disability Administration for money, filling out forms, checking wait-lists to see if you can get the therapy yet, going to talks at hospitals and begging school for better services, you really don’t know what raising a kid with a solid disability is like.

That sounds like a lot. Well then, with the 30 seconds we have left, any closing thoughts, Ms. Sweeney?

Take a tip from Outdoors for All. They get it, and they get your kid. You don’t have to start from scratch, explaining, with them. I’m super grateful they’re in our city. For the kids that don’t have supports like this yet, I want to say YES YOU CAN. YES YOU CAN be accepted in society with your disability. YOU ARE NOT BROKEN AND YOU COUNT. In fact, you are the one that changes minds when the others see how hard you try and how your loving heart guides you in a world that still shuns your gifts. I say yes to you.

Take a tip from Outdoors for All. They get it, and they get your kid. You don’t have to start from scratch, explaining, with them. I’m super grateful they’re in our city. For the kids that don’t have supports like this yet, I want to say YES YOU CAN. YES YOU CAN be accepted in society with your disability. YOU ARE NOT BROKEN AND YOU COUNT. In fact, you are the one that changes minds when the others see how hard you try and how your loving heart guides you in a world that still shuns your gifts. I say yes to you.

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