Monday, May 2, 2011

'Just lucky, I guess'

Why would somebody go to college for seven years, get a law degree and then advocate for people with disabilities.

"I guess the best answer is the punch line to the old joke: “Just lucky, I guess.”

That's Disability Rights Montana lawyer Tom Dooling's answer.

"First," he writes in the Spring issue of Apostrophe magazine (page 63), "I don’t think we should have to have advocates: people with disabilities shouldn’t have to have specially trained professionals to guarantee their rights.

"Instead, people with disabilities should be accepted and accorded all the rights and benefits of any other member of society, including the right to eat too many chocolate chip cookies and suffer a stomachache as a result.

"Instead – and we advocates are as guilty as anyone else – assume that people with disabilities need someone else to do for them what they can’t do for themselves. I have worked with folks who do a marvelous job of sticking up for their own rights – and bear cheerfully the consequences (i.e., “punishment”) they receive more often than not for doing so.

There will come a time when disability rights advocates will be just about as necessary as blacksmiths, but that time hasn’t come yet. We now broadly recognize the civil rights of some members of our society who were being shunned and segregated in the 1960s.

It has taken a lot of advocacy, a lot of pressure and a lot of changes in the law to turn our society’s view around. Many of the people who helped make those changes were lawyers who stood at the side of people who were unpopular and disliked, who advocated, marched, demonstrated, litigated and refused to shut up."

Read more of Dooling's columns here.

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