MLK’s Dream Lives on in the Fight for Disability Abilities
In his speech "A Blueprint for Life" to middle school students in Philadelphia in 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a generation he never saw grow up, but to one that worked to fulfill his dream for equality for all, including Americans with disabilities.
On Jan. 17, we celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. King, remember the struggle for civil rights, and renew a commitment to make life better for others.
We can do that in so many ways. One of the ways I chose is to be part of NTI’s mission to help Americans with disabilities, family caregivers, and veterans find at-home work with free job training and job placement services. As a nonprofit, my colleagues and I work every day to help others.
One of the many messages Dr. King delivered in his lifetime is a commitment to making things better for everyone.
While the Civil Rights Act passage didn’t include Americans with disabilities, it did fuel the changes we have seen by advocates who entered the fight for rights for all, leading to changes being made and continuing to be made every day as the dreams increase, unfortunately, in the wake of COVID-19.
In his words and actions to this day, Dr. King tells us how that can be accomplished.
“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better,” he said.
That calls to us the message Dr. King gave of fighting for a better, fairer life for everyone.
We all have abilities and resources and can commit to making a difference in the world we live in. In the area of disabilities, we can educate people on how to look past others’ differences, avoid ableist prejudices make opportunities accessible, and use our talents to expand accessibility for everyone.
When we see injustice, when we see prejudice, when we see discrimination, as Dr. King said, we are called upon to do something about it.
Individuals involved in the civil rights movement joined and taught others how to make a difference for the disabled, leading to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
That has meant better, safer public transportation, better building codes to make places accessible, more fairness, more financial supports, and better opportunities for employment, to name just a few.
While strides have been made, we know the battle continues today and will be going on tomorrow to make sure we are living up to the commitment of supporting Americans with disabilities
As he sat in jail in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, Dr. King wrote about how people cannot think of themselves as separate from others, because what we do affects others and ourselves, calling for us to work together and not as separate individuals.
On MLK Day, we can make a commitment or a re-commitment to follow those words and act as individuals making a difference by remembering the words of Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
(Michael S. Hardman is the media relations specialist for NTI. Americans with disabilities can receive job training and job placement services for free by registering at www.ntiathome.org.)
“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better…”