This year our Confirmation class served as a powerful example of our community’s commitment to inclusion. Of the sixteen students, three are on the autism spectrum, one has severe dyslexia, one has auditory processing issues and one is blind.
Most individuals with disabilities are not within our congregations because they can’t be – they are not physically able to enter, they are not made to feel welcome, and their needs are not met once they are there.
I hope that you will take what you have learned from me and from others during Jewish Disability Awareness Month and move forward on the journey toward inclusion. Make a plan, chart a path…decide how you will do it and who will be on the journey with you.
I worry that the video of Rion’s college acceptance undermines efforts toward the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities and perpetuates the notion that it is the rare individual with Down Syndrome who gets accepted to college.
At URJ 6 Points Sci Tech Academy inclusion is not an after-thought or a band aid stuck on problems after they arise. Rather, this is a community built with intentionality and the foresight to anticipate the many needs and complexities of a wonderfully diverse population.
We have to acknowledge that all first steps are meaningful and join together to support the journey. There is just far too much at stake. We need schools and synagogues and other Jewish organizations to take their steps without fear. Each one of us has unique challenges; so do our organizations.
My words from seven years ago have left me wondering if I should feel proud that my work has been well ahead of the curve, or disheartened that these are words that must still be said today. Maybe it’s a little of both…
The more of his senses a child uses and the better he becomes at using them, the more he can learn. And yet, once a child enters school, she is often expected to rely most heavily on hearing and seeing as a means to acquire new information.
How do we avoid situations where members of our community hear or think about disabilities and inclusion and automatically assume that the inclusion specialist or coordinator will “handle it”? How do we make sure that there are those near us who will say that we must keep “singing the inclusion song” because it is that important?