The end of the year is always a good time to model the god, Janus. In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. The Romans dedicated the month of January to Janus. This year, 2017, is certainly worth remembering.
In all of my career, I can never remember such hard fought advocacy efforts merely to maintain the status quo. Regardless of what we may think about the current Medicaid program, the prospect of its demise has been a sobering reminder that we cannot take community living and the strides our field has made over the last 30 years for granted.
Like Janus, I want to take time to look back and honor the work of thousands of people with disabilities, their parents, family members and friends who worked so hard to achieve access to basic freedoms and choices that have resulted in our current service array. I remember my early career as a social worker and reading records about all those families who made the “choice” to institutionalize their children, only after repeatedly being turned away by public schools who refused to meet their educational needs. From these denials there arose a groundswell of folks who refused to allow their children to be deprived of a free and appropriate education. Determined journalists joined to expose deplorable conditions in large institutions and a President whose sister was disabled begin to listen to the demands for quality standards and improved opportunities.
Looking forward I see new leaders emerging as once again self-advocates and their families use their voices, activism and the legal system to demand access to the lives most of us take for granted. We are standing on the shoulders of great believers, people like Kathryn McGee, Elizabeth Boggs, Edward Roberts, and Rev. Harold H. Wilke (if you don’t know who these folks are spend some time on Google); these advocates demanded inclusion.
Their courage and the experience of hundreds of others, including our own Legacy Leaders, inspires me to keep fighting for equality, looking forward, I hope in 2018 that we will see progress toward inclusive communities, dignity and living wages for direct support professionals, and policies that support the funding necessary to make these goals a reality. I am looking ahead to a new year of possibilities where I can use my vote, my voice and my work to insure that we make progress toward a society that values all of its members and provides opportunities for each person to realize their full potential.
I hope you will join ANCOR as we begin 2018 using our collective resources to continue the progress of the last decades and to build on the efforts of so many who have used their light to shine on a path for us to follow.
Angela King is CEO of Volunteers of America Texas and ANCOR’s Board President. She can be reached at [email protected].