Celebrating Independence at Easter Seals
From the desk of the CEO
Every year when July comes around and we prepare our Independence Day celebrations, I always pause to consider the true meaning of independence.
We all know thatIndependence Day is the official “birthday” of the United States of America - a country founded on the principles of “liberty” for all. This concept, so paramount to our nation, was ratified through the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Gratefully a free nation as a whole, we don’t all individually experience the same freedoms however. For someone living with a disability, “independence” may mean being able to make conscious decisions about their own lives, having equal access to their community and participation in the everyday things most people take for granted – without having to say, “I can’t”. It’s about equality and just being “ordinary, like everyone else”.
But in order to attain that independence, people who live with disabilities first have to overcome major obstacles. Before the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, a person with hearing impairments couldn’t order a pizza over the phone, someone in a wheelchair couldn’t ride the bus, and a person with developmental disabilities couldn’t get a job. Thankfully, things have come a long way since then.
At Easter Seals, we truly believe everyone has something valuable to contribute to their community. One way we help people with disabilities do just that is by providing employment or the skills needed to enter the workforce. Do you remember what it felt like when you received your very first paycheck? The pride you felt in bringing home that paycheck is something you’ll never forget. The emotion is the same for people of all abilities – that paycheck is proof of the importance of their hard work and the meaningful value it brings to society.
And, the benefits of independence through employment extend beyond people with disabilities to their family members, caregivers, and the community as a whole.
How? The stress that comes from caregiving is lessened by the peace of mind that their loved one is safe at work and being productive. It also provides the respite they need to attend to other family responsibilities. The community benefits because instead of the cost of institutionalizing people who are willing and more than able to be productive, they actually put money back into the community by working and becoming a taxpayer.
The bottom line is that people with disabilities share the same desire to feel included, to be able to give something back to the community, and to do things independently without relying on others. Unfortunately for many, full “independence” could still be out of reach. On this Independence Day, Easter Seals is proud to be an enduring supporter of this change. We will continue to be relentless in helping individuals with disabilities gain their full freedoms: the freedom to earn an income, enjoy recreation, live long, healthy lives and be proactive contributors to their households, their community, and most importantly – themselves.
That is what true independence is really all about. ♥
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