By Guest Blogger Steve Eidelman
Let me introduce myself. My name is Steve Eidelman and I have been working with and for people with disabilities since college, almost 40 years ago. I am currently a professor at the University of Delaware, I have held many leadership roles in public and private organizations over the years and am now also doing some consulting for the Ruderman Family Foundation.
What I’ve seen is that the way people with disabilities — and their families in many cases — are treated has changed dramatically during my professional lifetime. When I started working in the field nearly four decades ago, people with disabilities and their families had few choices.
Most school systems rejected them. Now they have a legal right to an education. Families of adults faced stark choices; public institutional care or no help at all providing care. A few lucky families had the resources for private institutions which were better than the public choices.
Doctors routinely told parents of infants with obvious disabilities not to grow too attached, that their children would never recognize them, wouldn’t walk, talk or be able to love them. Today, most parents of children with disabilities I meet are proud of their children’s accomplishments. Most think their children can learn, work, love and be loved, worship, live a decent life and be part of their communities.
In many places, adults with disabilities have organized and are speaking out for what they want and need from life. As I write this blog I am in Budapest where I am training leaders from 12 countries from the Former Soviet Union. All are trying to develop alternatives to the horrible history of custodial institutions, and worse. Now their governments are looking forward, and working to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. Though we have so much that still needs improving, with all the exciting new ideas and approaches that surface nearly daily, there is cause, worldwide, for hope and optimism.
— Steve Eidelman