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Power of Words

Photo Credit ("Martin Luther King, Jr. San Francisco June 30, 1964" by geoconklin2001 )

“This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream--a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality and of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many and give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.”(Martin Luther King, Jr., Stanford Center)

Wow. This man truly knew the power of words. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an amazing man. A true inspiring role model. Not only was he a groundbreaker for advocating for racial equality, but he also paved a huge path for Civil Rights in our country. What does Martin Luther King, Jr. mean to me you ask? He is a symbol of a freedom fighter. A person who will not back down no matter what obstacles are thrown his way. It is thanks to King that we now have things like Civil Rights. Without them, would the ADA or the Disability Rights movement have existed? “When changes were beginning to be being made for an increasing number of minorities across the country, advocates for those with disabilities joined in on the fight. Their efforts are responsible for many of the basic adaptations we see today, from marked parking spaces to equal access building codes” (MobilityWorks).

I agree with King that we need a country where every person should be given every equal opportunity. Where every person be judged by their character and not their physical appearance. All should be treated with the same respect and dignity as human beings. The Disability community constantly struggles in the fight to obtain that equality. Today, there are those who have been stripped of their dignity and respect just for their disability.

Imagine being passed over a job you are more than qualified for simply because the company judges you as incompetent due to your physical appearance. One year I was job hunting after graduating from college. I received a phone from one of the stores I had submitted my applications to. The employee on the phone had told me I was hired for the job with the need for an interview. I was ecstatic. I was told to come over to the store and go over the paperwork and discuss the job. I remember dressing up in my best professional workwear. An outfit proper for my just hired appearance….little did I know what my actual first appearance will entail. I arrived at the store. The store associate who greeted me had widened her eyes at my appearance. I told her I received a phone call regarding the job acceptance. She had asked me if I had been interviewed. I told her the employee who had called me said there was no need for an interview and that I was hired. “That’s a mistake,” she told me. “You should have been interviewed.” She then led me to the back of the room for an “interview.” I felt embarrassed and wanted the earth to swallow me. The interview itself was a joke. It lasted only 5-10 minutes with only a couple of the questions asked on my personality. Nothing in relation to my job qualifications and the requirements of the position. This was merely an opportunity for the managers to save face and pat themselves on the back for allowing me an interview. I never heard from the company again. Thus never getting the job. Despite having a master’s degree, it took me three years to get a part-time job and five years to gain a successful full-time job. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Photo Credit ("Momma Glo" by Culture: Subculture)

“We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., NPR)

Many hotels are still not fully accessible. I remember times traveling with my family where I couldn’t even shower for days because the hotel’s version of an accessible shower was a tiny bench screwed into the wall. No Hoyer lift, no shower chair, and no shorter bed to transfer into. I get nervous traveling because there are so few accessible rooms in hotels that I always worry about not finding lodging. Why must there only be specific rooms for wheelchair users? Why not make them accessible for everyone? Is it really that difficult to update your showers, stock up on chairs, or make the doorways wider? Many of the accessible rooms are double the cost of a regular room. As a traveler with a disability, I am expected to not only plan it months in advance but also pay more than a regular traveler?

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., NPR)

I love this line. Martin Luther King, Jr. means a lot to me. His dream for an equal world is a dream I share. I am tired of those seeing my disability as an excuse to be treated differently. To be treated as equal and not inferior. I wish for a day where we are not skipped over, judged, belittled, defiled, denied, rejected, ridiculed…A day we can be whoever we want to be and fulfill our own dreams. Like King, I refuse to be silent! For those with disabilities also have voices. All our voices count!

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., NPR)

Photo Credit ("Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial" by Gage Skidmore)

What will you be doing to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.? How has he inspired you? Feel free to share.

Sources for this blo


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