Note: I wrote this essay for AARP hoping to win $25,000 for ADAPT. Today, I found out I didn't win! Thought I'd share it anyway!
Being a woman in a wheelchair, I was always expected to be the helped rather than the helper. My cerebral palsy makes it impossible for me to use the bathroom on my own or get dressed or undressed myself, as well as about 1,000 other tasks most people do independently. However, I was born with a servant’s heart.
I am happiest when I am being of service to a fellow human being, especially if that person also has a disability. In pursuit of my ultimate goal of the complete and total liberation and acceptance of people with disabilities (PWD), I have spoken to numerous media outlets, lobbied politicians, and used my literary talents to inform individuals about the situations PWD confront. This past week, I marched on Washington with hundreds of other activists in defense of Medicaid and the right to receive long-term supportive services in the community setting of your choice.
I believe people of all ages have the right to determine their own lives and receive services where they choose; not just be forced into an institution when they require assistance, the more costly and less life-affirming alternative.
When I say, "I'd rather go to jail than die in a nursing home." I mean it. I've gone to jail for what I believe in. I will not hesitate to go back until the powers that be realize that PWD and elders have something valuable to offer and don't need to be locked away and forgotten about in institutions.