Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

You Can Make a Difference: Parents and Politics

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

You Can Make a Difference: Parents and Politics

Article excerpt

When we first published presidential campaign statements in 1972, most candidates for public office were unprepared to address issues of concern. Looking back at the letter we sent to the two major parties in 1972 and published in our June/July 1972 issue makes clear how much that has changed. In that letter we identified the ways in which children and adults were being excluded from an active and effective role in our society.

* "children are frequently excluded from public educational programs ...

* "Public attitudes deprive ... adults of the opportunity to be more self-sufficient vocationally.

* "... barriers, in architecture, transportation, cultural and recreational facilities, all serve to exclude ... from the rich diversity of American life ..."

At first, a few courageous parents, people with disabilities and professionals believed they had a right to approach candidates. As the numbers of advocates grew, national as well as state and local candidates began to appreciate that children and adults with disabilities and their families needed to be heard.

Today, federal laws deal with the problems of exclusion. However, there are fiscal problems at each level of government that are affecting programs important in the day-to-day lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families. These problems may seem so immense that we all may wonder if any one of us can make a difference.

In our next issue, Governor Barbara Roberts of Oregon will explain how her child' s exclusion from school because of his disability got her involved in politics. Her story is a vivid example of how one person can make a difference. Although only a few citizens become governors, all parents of children with disabilities know that they must learn to be their child's advocate. Many parents of children with a disability acquire excellent advocacy skills. Each parent, in his or her own way, must then decide how much of their own time and energy to devote to advocating on behalf of all families.

So many parents and people with disabilities have done so much that it is sometimes easy to forget the specific details of a particular individual's contributions unless he or she remains in the limelight. Each of our readers can identify those individuals who have shown them the way and inspired them to find new energies and develop new skills. …

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