The title of my documentary, INterDEPENDENCE is derived, blatantly and purposely, from the word “independence”. INterDEPENDENCE is the state of being independent, with the help of others. We’re all interdependent in some ways, but the word and its meaning take on profound significance for people with disabilities. So, on this Independence Day 2020, when so many of us are feeling limited in our independence, I thought it might help to remember how interdependent we all are.
The COVID pandemic and subsequent quarantining have pushed interdependence into the face of Americans who so fiercely defend their right and ability to care for themselves, no help necessary. Suddenly, delivery workers and grocery clerks are “essential workers”. But many people with disabilities (PWD’s) live each day, pandemic or not, depending on their own essential workers just to get out of bed in the morning and make it back at night. It’s one thing to run low on toilet paper, imagine not having the help you need to get to the toilet. A critical shortage of licensed care givers is just one chasm facing a PWD who aspires to get an education, a job and an adult life like many of you. There’s also the maze of government red tape they must navigate, over and over again, to get the limited benefits they do receive. And even if they’re able to do that and then, somehow, find someone to share their life with, they face catastrophic penalties if they chose marriage to manifest their love.
Yet, many PWD’s are ready and willing to put up with what it would take to live on their own, if only our society would reach out and meet them halfway (or more). And, with the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act coming up on July 26, it’s as good a time as any to take a hard look at how we as a nation value the citizens among us who need some extra help. Surely, a society as advanced as ours is in technology and machinery can put some attention, creativity and money towards advancing humanity. And surely, a society that celebrates independence with a national holiday can step up to better include its citizens who are more interdependent.
And one final note, as many of you read this thinking it doesn’t apply to you, keep in mind this disability community we speak of is perhaps the only minority group that any of us can join at any time and many of us will.