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A commitment to adults with disabilities; a goal for the 1990s.


As we look towards the 1990s, we can expect adults with disabilities to reach new levels of fulfillment in our society. Because parents have been able to make sure that their child's needs for care, support, and education have been met, their children are far better equipped to live as adults in the community than any prior generation of people with disabilities.

But this is not enough! There are major problems that must be addressed - opportunities available to these young men and women are still likely to be limited because of discrimination, and some will still need financial, social and emotional support.

Many adults with disabilities, including those who are "well-educated," are unemployed even though they want to work. And too many adults with disabilities interact more with paid service providers than with friends. Employer attitudes, lack of access, lack of usable public transportation, lack of housing, and the remaining financial disincentives to work all continue to contribute to far too many adults becoming the kind of pitiful, tragic figures that used to characterize the fund raising appeals of organizations serving people with disabilities.

We can solve these problems. We must begin by making sure that the victims" (people with disabilities and their dedicated parents) are not blamed for the current state of affairs. Neither should we blame caring professionals who, just like parents, have tried to do what they believed was best.

All parents have the same goals for all their children. Parents want their children to grow up and become adults who are self-sufficient, able to make decisions, and take charge of their own lives.

Let us also acknowledge that "independence" is not a goal for any adult - with disabilities or without disabilities. All adults require interdependent networks of relationships and supports to live fully and productively.

Working towards these goals is challenging for all parents and all children. For many years, parents who worked towards these goals for their children who happened to be disabled did so against the tide of community attitudes and goals. All too often, the future was foreclosed for children with disabilities - there were to be no options, no opportunities.

For adults with disabilities, financial constraints are a major barrier to their becoming self-sufficient. At the present time, most working adults with disabilities may only be able to earn enough money for a rather marginal standard of living and are unable to set funds aside for such luxuries" as adequate health care or decent housing. They may be unable to achieve a standard of living comparable to their brothers and sisters. At the same time, their parents must often resort to legalistic trickery in order to provide financial resources for their heirs without endangering their children's eligibility for the benefits of government entitlement programs for health care or other kinds of assistance.

At the same time, state and federal laws and regulations have established various disincentives to regular employment. Adults with disabilities or medical conditions are provided with health care and other supports during crises - until they are able to work. Then the supports are removed. To call these barriers "financial disincentives" is a far too gentle method of labelling these procedures. Although they began as benevolent, they are cruel and abusive in contemporary life; they destroy human beings.

Because of the successes of the vast coalition of parents, people with disabilities, and professionals in convincing the community at large to invest in providing real opportunities for participation to children with disabilities and their families, a great deal of knowledge has been created. This knowledge can be put to use addressing the needs of adults with disabilities. We must work with our fellow citizens to ensure that society's investment in children with disabilities pays off so that adults with disabilities can live full lives.

We must explain the devastation brought about by financial disincentives just as we must explain the value of accessible public transportation. And we must continue to remind ourselves and our neighbors that most accommodations are actually not costly and that even those that are expensive in the short run (such as buses that are wheelchair accessible) will pay off in the future.

Our society needs to appreciate that the commitment that has been made to provide educational opportunities for children with disabilities should not be in vain. These children need to be assured that society's commitment to provide necessary supports will continue during adulthood. Only then will all young adults have the opportunity to lead the kind of satisfying lives that all parents want for all their children.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Klein, Stanley D.; Schleifer, Maxwell J.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:editorial
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Previous Article:Final regulations; early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with handicaps.
Next Article:Wanted: a diagnosis for my son.

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