Have you ever heard a teacher, coach or politician say: “If you work hard enough, you can do anything”?
We silently nod, realizing this is not literally true. It’s meant to inspire us to make the most of our abilities, to be the best we can be.
The problem is when someone in a policy-making position actually believes this.
I’m here to tell you that no matter how hard I work, I will never be able to block Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. We are all limited in some way by our physical and intellectual attributes.
When I was in high school, my basketball coach had a drill where we would hang from a horizontal bar for as long as we could in the hopes this would stretch us, making us a little taller. No matter how long I hang on that bar, I will never be able to win a jump ball against basketball star LeBron James.
Why do I mention this? Because it is becoming fashionable in the world of advocating for disabled individuals to assert they are all capable of working competitively in community-based employment and can be just as productive as anyone else. Moreover, it’s suggested they should be doing so.
This is leading to a movement to shut down the wonderful pre-vocational work centers we have in Wisconsin. They are disparagingly referred to as “sheltered workshops” by some.
Gov. Scott Walker has been in the news for his initiative to increase community-based employment for the disabled. The Obama administration seems to be pushing for phasing out these workshops for being discriminatory segregation.
Normally, the victims of discrimination are the ones to complain. In this case, those utilizing the services of the workshops — those supposedly being discriminated against — are passionately defending them.
My son is developmentally disabled with an IQ around 50. Would anyone suggest that if he just worked hard enough at it, he could solve a problem in differential calculus?
I will be criticized by some for even using the term IQ. But come on, aren’t some people smarter than others? Aren’t some people less capable than others? This reality in no way lessens the dignity or worth of every human being.
I recently was inspired to hear disability advocate Evelyne Villines speak to a group of developmentally disabled individuals. Her message was: Yes, you all have limitations. But still you are great.
She repeated this until the entire audience was shouting “I’m great!”
There’s a catchy song my son and I love that goes, “All God’s children have a place in the choir ... some sing lower and some sing higher.”
A few can even block Clay Matthews. I can’t, but I am still great.
As for my son, he will never be able to work in a full-time “real” job, nor does he want to.
Hopefully he will always be able to go to his work center-based program that he loves.
He, too, is great!
Read this excellent letter written by Rick Wilson in the Wisconsin State Journal.