Why am I so passionate about supporting the Invest in Ability Dinner?
Because throughout my life, I frequently experienced being dismissed, excluded, ignored, unable to access buildings or recreational areas, and not welcomed because of my disability.
Even more heartbreaking, I saw, and continue to witness, so many who encounter daily obstacles to live independent lives.
I was born in June of 1949. Six months later, in December, the polio virus struck and my right leg affected. I grew up in a hospital amongst other babies and young children suffering from polio, blindness, congenital diseases, deafness and/or disfiguring burns. I remember when no parent was around, I looked into their saddened and frightened eyes, and empathized with them.
Living with a serious limp and increasing limited mobility due to Post-Polio Syndrome has its’ challenges. I live in a home without steps and wide hallways and doors. I use a scooter to get to an outing that has mobility barriers.
My friends and others with a physical challenge voice their complaints too:
- Most homes have steps;
- Inaccessible bathrooms;
- Broken sidewalks;
- No curb cuts;
- No automatic door openers into buildings, stores, or restaurants;
- Narrow pathways in retail establishments;
- No tactile paving or audible street crossing signals for those experiencing seeing issues;
- Few audible descriptions or touch experiences of art or sculptures;
- No accessibility directly into the lake and river waters.
Sadly, the list is ongoing. There are too many obstacles that prevent us from being independent and enjoying the experiences. I often state it is not the number of persons with disabilities we see in our community, but the increasing numbers who remain home in isolation that should concern us.
I mention the obstacles to bring awareness. I mention the obstacles because Disability Advocates of Kent County works toward all of them in order to improve accessibility in West Michigan. I am committed to the organization’s mission, “to work alongside people with disabilities as they seek to lead self-directed lives and to advocate for accessible and welcoming communities.”
Independence, Employment, Affordable Housing, Transportation, Accessibility, Acceptance, Daily Dealing with a Disability and Health Issues, Advocating for Systems Change — that is why I support Disability Advocates of Kent County and especially the annual Invest in Ability Dinner!
Please join us on October 23, 2019 to make our community truly accessible and inclusive for all. https://iia2019.eventbrite.com
Jenny Wood Shangraw, Community Volunteer, Advocate and Friend