When we, as a society, think of the word “minority,” what comes to mind might be groups of people such as African Americans, Jews, Homosexuals… But, in order to think of these groups of people as minorities, we must recognize them, be aware of them.
There are moments I feel I fall below the totem-level of minority into a classification of “ignored” or “unrecognized” or worse – “invisible.” As a parent with special needs, I am constantly pointing out structural flaws in the buildings and parking lots of the places my daughter and I frequent. I find myself advocating for the consideration of parents with special needs since our country (USA) is singularly focused on parents of special needs children.
Most recently, the gym my daughter attends made changes to their facility. Their aim was not only to expand, but also to become “handicap accessible” – Oh, those 2 most misunderstood words!! They’ve added the parking spots and the entrance (yippee!!) yet when I inquired where the elevator to the mezzanine was, I was told there isn’t one. I’ll be the only parent allowed to sit downstairs inside the gym. I do not see this as a privilege; I see this as yet another instance where my child is vicariously singled out due to my physical condition. I long for the days when she and I will simply be ‘a part of’ not ‘apart from.’
The second situation to arise within the past couple of weeks has been at my daughter’s school. She attends a private preschool/transitional kindergarten school. The parking lot is very small and there is no turn-around so, if there are no empty spaces, parents are either forced to ‘create’ spaces or exit back onto the street and re-enter the parking lot. There are NO handicap spaces – NOT ONE!! I approached the Director about my need for one since I will be getting a van soon and will need to not only be able to let my ramp down but enter and exit the vehicle safely with my daughter. Ideas have been bounced back and forth, but none are feasible and her hands are tied as she answers to the corporation. I am left to wonder about parking safely when getting my daughter to and from school.
When I found out I was pregnant, 2 feelings emerged quite quickly. The first was of intense love. The second was fear – I prayed to God that my child would never face consequences due to my physical condition. I wanted my baby to have the most ‘typical’ childhood possible and to experience all that this wondrous world has to offer us. On a daily basis, I strive to make clear that my limitations are not her limitations.
However, as the years have gone by, I’ve noticed the need for advocacy regarding the awareness of and consideration for parents with special needs. I’ve become somewhat of a voice in my local community – not only for myself but (hopefully) for the parents who will follow in my footsteps, whether they follow on one leg and crutches or roll along behind me with their children in their laps – JUST KNOW THAT WE ARE OUT THERE. We are parents who have a right and responsibility to raise our children without limitations. We are parents who deserve to be seen, to be recognized, to be given the chance to live able, limitless lives with our children. Some of us may not be able to hear. Some may not be able to see; some not able to walk. Yet all of us are capable of loving and partnering with God to bring His miracles into this world.
The only limits we face are the ones society creates…