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Shouting my COMMITMENT!

NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art: Washington Crossing the Delaware
Creative Commons License photo credit: wallyg

Is Anybody There? Does Anybody Care?

Each of us has transformational moments in our lives.

One of mine was watching the musical 1776. In one scene the night before the vote on independency, John Adams reads a letter from George Washington and using his words, sings about “commitment.”

These founding fathers used words and actions to create a form of government that never existed before. They were visionaries, they were leaders. Seth Godin would say they were Linchpins, they shipped.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is 20 years old July 26, 2010

Since Aaron was born, in my small way, I have taken a stand for the civil rights of people with severe disabilities.

With ADA they now have a chance at the American Dream of our forefathers. The dream is not a promise, it is still only a dream for most of us, but there is the possibility–the hope.

Dedicated parents and professionals of people with disabilities answered the call: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?” Their work and sacrifice have made it possible for Aaron and others to grow up with their parents and families; go to school with their brothers, sisters and neighbors; and learn skills that will help them after they graduate for the 40, 50, 60 years of the rest of their lives.

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) they can live in the community of their choice; and with luck have people who will care about them.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 1975

In 1975 when we were first learning of Aaron’s intellectual disability, an inclusive life was just the dream of a few parents and professionals. Now, in 2010 we have better attitudes, laws, research and information. We have made tremendous progress, at least for school-age kids. But like other civil rights movements we do not have all the answers, we have not reached the top of the mountain–especially when it comes to the lives of adults with disabilities.

I was interviewed last week by a university student who was taking a class on people with exceptionalities. His assignment was to interview a parent who had lived during the early days of IDEA and compare “inclusion” with the “continuum of services.”

We talked about the Disability Civil Rights Movement, we talked about the definition of inclusion and how some professionals have bastardized the word, we talked about taking a personal stand and making a commitment.

As I prepared for the interview, it felt good to go through my files and pull the documentation of what we have accomplished in the past 30 years.

See (Parallels in Time if you are interested in a history) on the other hand, it was shocking that inclusion is still a controversial issue.

I know old paradigms die hard, but it is more than that.

There are some people who will never give up their segregated and “special” attitudes and values. Some people who will forever fight for keeping the status quo and the charity model. And, it is no secret that No Child Left Behind–left our children behind.

In future blog posts I will talk about this journey, but for now I am just going to say there is a resource page that will have some contact information.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,


In the comments: What do you think? Is anybody there? Does anybody care?

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14 Responses to “Shouting my COMMITMENT!”

  • Lacy Morris says:

    I think it is so awesome how much you stick up for Aaron and other kids that aren’t even yours. I love when somebody has such a desire for something. It is so amazing that Aaron has been able to come such a long way and be able to attend school with children his own age. I like when you put, “Since Aaron was born, in my small way, I have taken a stand for the civil rights of people with severe disabilities.” It is admirable to watch somebody be so passionate in helping somebody! Keep it up!

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Thanks Lacy. Believing and then DOING–is a life work, a life worth living. I have made millions of mistakes, but if I have helped Aaron and anyone else have a more loving, caring life–then it is well worth it.

  • The questions “Is anybody there?” and “Does anybody care?” stuck out to me so much. Sometimes it’s crazy how alone someone can feel. Sometimes it just feels like nobody understands and I know how difficult that feeling is when you just need someone there to hear you out. I’m so glad that you made this website because I believe that it is a great way to get out information and personal stories!!
    Taylor Willoughby recently posted..Thanksgiving | Inclusion and Interdependence

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Can you imagine George Washington saying that? And John Adams opening the letter? Promise me you will see the movie 1776–I think you’ll love it. And, sometimes we have to do what we have to do…”For I have crossed the Rubicon, let them burn the bridge behind me…”

  • Kelsey says:

    I think this is awesome! Good for you for sticking with things, and fighting for not only Aaron but all the other children that were ‘left behind.’ I’m currently thinking about switching my major, and reading about how hard you work for what you want and everything you do is very admiring to me! As I hope to accomplish everything to my full potential in life. Keep up the amazing work 🙂

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Kelsey, you are a joy. Whichever major you choose, you will give it your all–your commitment. And that will make a difference for many people.

  • Megan Treft says:

    Everything you do with ADA is very admirable. Sounds like you’ve came a long way. You seem like an amazing mom!

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      It’s been a long journey, Megan. But you are right, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished–only wish it was more.

  • I think it is a really good point of view. I usually meet people who rather say what they suppose others want to hear. Good and well written! I will come back to your site for sure!

  • Mary, you are an inspiration to us all. Love the blog!

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