Rarely does inspiration come in a single defined moment of clarity where all your thoughts are defined into a single goal; becoming an advocate is one of those rare moments. It occurred at 0900 on September 6th 1996. Most parents would agree that your world changes when you have kids. When you have a child that needs an advocate that is exactly what happens. Its easy for me to point to when Devon was born for wanting to support the Down syndrome community, when your children are young you think about potential, you do everything you can to make sure they can achieve all that they can achieve. The reality of them growing up is much harder. This is particularly true when you have a child that has to apply for social security disability and you have to face the reality that no matter what their potential is there will be hurdles that you simply don’t yet have the tools to deal with.
My “aha” moment was the transition of Devon finishing hight school and beginning her college/transition program. Trying to figure out how much Devon was going to need to live and what kind of employment she had access to was a reality we were trying to face with as much knowledge as possible. Unfortunately, there is a tremendous amount of information regarding employment for people with intellectual disabilities. The numbers are terrible, not just based on how many people are legitimately gainfully employed, but how much they are paid. The line is clear in that most people with intellectual disabilities want to have an independent life. We also know that, for most, the road to independence runs through employment.
At the NDSS conventions, and our time with Down Syndrome International’s World Down syndrome day we have been exposed to several public service announcements (PSA) regarding inclusion and employment. Some were very factual and some very artistic, but all tugged at my part to try to be a better advocate for my daughter and family.
My desire to produce a PSA for the Down Syndrome Community began when we met Melinda Raebyen through a disability group asking for representation in music video about diversity. This was a project by Shui Productions is where people of different abilities, ethnicities, and genders would be represented in a project with a local band trying to promote inclusion and acceptance. Through the course of filming the video I was awed by the professionalism and artistry that this group of people brought to bear creating a thing of beauty and inspiration. Watching Melinda use this tool to express her vision I thought this would be the perfect vehicle for the Down Syndrome Community to send a message to the the puget sound population about what are loved ones have to offer. Inclusion and acceptance is a road to employment and independence and all of us deserve those opportunities.
Melding art and a message to create momentum towards a common goal was the intent. I wanted to help the Down Syndrome Community of the Puget Sound represent our loved ones in a way that we could all be proud. What makes each of us special is unique regardless of our chromosomes, gender, or color. The more we make this message clear the more all of us can enjoy the true potential our lives afford us.