Specifically, I want to discuss how something remarkable can happen when we take declarative statements (those that end with a period) and change them to open ended questions (changing the period to a question mark).
I am a person with a disability.
I am a person with a disability?
For the phrase above, the question mark changes everything. I think the resulting change is very important and meaningful. The period leaves no doubt. But the question mark opens the door for further exploration.
According to the Disability Status: 2000 - Census 2000 Brief, approximately 20% of Americans have one or more diagnosed psychological or physical disability. That’s 1 in 5. Going even further, some studies show that 55% of adults in the workforce in the United States qualify for some form of workplace accommodation.
If such large numbers of people identify as having a disability or needing an accommodation, then perhaps those labels don’t really mean anything except that the majority of us need some sort of assistance if we want to become active, participating members of our communities. If more of us need some form of assistance then those who don’t, then a designation of disability seems kind of pointless.
That’s a world I wish for. A world where it is understood that all of us, at one time or another, need some assistance to get by or to get ahead. The level of assistance may vary on the person and the situation, but we all need someone to stand by us once in a while.
If that fundamental fact is understood, then disabilities (and the accompanying necessary accommodations) wouldn’t be considered out of the ordinary. They would just be considered a natural part of the fabric of our communities and lives.
And instead of being forced to declaring some disabled and others not, all people will have the right to ask the reasonable question “I have a disability?”
Then again, what do I know?