PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND THEIR ALLIES BUILDING BETTER COMMUNITIES TOGETHER
John O’Brien & Connie Lyle O’Brien
The basis of people’s lives with one another is twofold, and it is one–the wish of each person to be confirmed as what each person is, even as what that person can become; and the innate capacity in each person to confirm others in this way. That this capacity lies so immeasurably fallow constitutes the real weakness and questionableness of the human race; actual humanity exists only where this capacity unfold.
Three kinds of change, occurring at different scales, shape the opportunities for people with substantial disabilities to participate in unfolding the capacity for mutual confirmation which Buber finds at the root of our common life. Declarations of social policy, such as the Canadian Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Americans with Disabilities Act, reflect a new awareness of the rights (and political influence) of people with disabilities and their families by forbidding discrimination on the basis of disability. Services to people with substantial disabilities gradually shift attention and investment away from congregate services. So small but growing and visible numbers of people with substantial disabilities live in ordinary housing, have support for ordinary employment, and attend ordinary schools. At the smallest scale are the efforts that concern this paper. This kind of change involves people learning together how to build community across the imposed social barriers that separate people with substantial disabilities from other people.