Friday, July 10, 2009

Defining Independence

Last Saturday, I was able to attend the annual fireworks show on the South lawn of the Capitol. This was my first Independence Day in DC and first time seeing Aretha Franklin live. The entire performance-- including the concert-- was spectacular. In addition to catching up with the other interns, I saw the Capitol building illuminated in the night sky. This setting is beautiful throughout the day, but as a historical backdrop, invokes special emotions. I wonder government officials have similar emotional experiences, or does it become "another day at the office." I believe people should work to do what they love, but this is a topic for another post.

My experiences at the concert encouraged me to ponder the notion of "independence" in the context of the disability community. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines independent as,” not requiring or relying on something else.” A majority of society in my opinion literally applies this context to all people with disabilities. When in actuality the journey to independence varies from person to person. Many with physical disabilities grapple with maintaining independence, refusing necessary assistance and overusing assistance.
Realizing an appropriate level of independence comes with emotional maturity and dependent upon the extent of one's disability. A more inclusive definition that I use personally is productively contributing to one's community. I may need supports for mobility, but am able to travel and manage my affairs. This represents independence to me! With the principles in mind, disability advocates support legislation promoting community-based services. I hope society embraces a broader definition of independence in the future.

Nathan D Turner

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