I was just watching a clip from a new Veggie Tales movie. The characters get in a pickle and they decide they will call on the help of an instrument called The Helpseeker. (If you’d like to see what it looks like, here’s the clip but for those visually impaired readers, I’d say it looked rather like a giant butternut squash!)
It reminded me of times when I’ve received calls from people who are in a pickle due to the way they’re being treated regarding their disability. They contact me and aren’t sure what to expect. Maybe they’ve tried to self advocate and that hasn’t worked. Or they aren’t sure where to turn even though they know that they’re being discriminated against.
It’s important to recognize the difference between the need to educate others and the need to advocate. Sometimes all that has to happen is to educate people about what you as a person with a disability may need, but there are times when a different approach is necessary. That’s when advocating – for yourself or for another person – can make a difference in quality of life.
As an advocate, I’ve seen situations where it can make a life and death difference. This can happen when someone needs medical equipment or care or is in danger of becoming homeless. There are situations that some can’t even imagine that occur due to discriminatory practices – and educating the other person by explaining what disability is about or like can fall far short of what’s needed. That’s why we have laws and that’s why, no matter how much we may want to debate the right approach to take, we need the protection laws provide at times.
I can understand the lure of thinking a magical instrument is going to save the day but I believe that advocating is a skill people can – and should – learn. I also believe in the magic that happens when people open their minds up and learn about each other. That’s called inclusion.
Copyright 2008 Ruth Harrigan