By: Jo Ann Simons
Everything about my new car is different. The location of the cup holders have changed, the layout of the audio system is not the same as in my old car and I am having trouble figuring out how to operate the defrost.
And when did the white appliances in my kitchen become passé and who decided that stainless steel was the correct choice?
Change is everywhere; sometimes they are minor inconveniences and other times they shift our collective thought and action.
We have to get used to both kinds.
This week we learned that, finally, the Social Security administration will become the latest federal agency to start using the term “intellectual disability” in lieu of “mental retardation.” Officials cite the change in response to the “widespread adoption” of the term “intellectual disability”.
We are witnessing the final end of the use of the “R” word. The movement to eliminate this word from our language began by self-advocates, who fiercely objected to its use and championed its elimination. They were joined by their families, friends and organizations (Special Olympics and Best Buddies started The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign) who together stewarded a new era.
This change did not occur, as in the case of my cup holders, because of engineers and designers of social policy, but from the widespread grass roots activism of persons with disabilities, their families and professionals.
This has reinforced my belief in what Margaret Mead said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
I propose that advocacy be considered the most important program for funders and policy makers, instead of an afterthought. Think of the possibilities!
Imagine what we could accomplish if the small group of committed people had armies of supporters behind them.
Jo Ann Simons is a Disability Advisor to the Ruderman Family Foundation and President and CEO of the Cardinal Cushing Centers
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