Sunday, June 17, 2012

NCIL March

Right to Left: Jess Toutellotte (Writer of this post), My Frances Vhay, Yoshiko Dart
       I'm part of a generation that has benefited from the work that so many advocates and activists have adamantly fought to provide everyone with disabilities, such as the IDEA and the ADA. I was allowed to receive a public education. I’ve always been able to use curb cuts. I can’t remember a time when they weren’t available. They have always been a part of my world.
      Despite these many advances, there have been bumps along the way. The title of the annual NCIL conference was “30 Years of Advocacy: and miles to go before we sleep”. There is much truth within this title. Mainstreaming children with disabilities into the educational system is not a smooth or balanced affair. I spent the majority of my class time in the back of the classroom with a group of “ill-educated” classmates directed by the teacher’s aide...

       Ten years later I am in awe that I am standing in the front of one of the most well known disability marches in the U.S., pushing Justin Dart’s wheelchair and cowboy hat forward. Silently I am repeating a mantra to myself. “Do not fall over.” Broken-record-style. “Do NOT fall over.” Yoshiko’s request to push Justin’s wheelchair is the biggest honor I have been given to date in my life. 
        To my left is Lou Ann Kibbee and Dan Kessler. To my right, Kelly Buckland and his son. And straight behind me is Marca Bristo and Yoshiko Dart. I reach back and grasp Marca’s hand, an unforgettable introduction. Straight ahead is the Capitol building, and the moment becomes surreal and real all at once. I am on the verge of tears, but there is no time to cry, because before I know it, we are moving up the curb cut, and moving toward the lunch area. But the march isn’t over. I hear the words, JUSTICE! and NOW!, erupt behind me. I look to my left and right for guidance to start the chant and realize that I am alone. There is only thing to do.
            I yell, “What are we fighting for?”
            “JUSTICE” echoes back to me.
            I continue, “When do we want it?!”
            “NOW!” comes the answer.

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