Disability Awareness

By Peggy Sue McRae

Journal contributor.

In 1987 the month of March was officially declared National Disability Awareness Month.

Earlier this month, on March 4, with the death of Judy Heumann the world lost a great advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and the disabled community lost a champion and leader.

Born in 1948, Heumann began her fight for access and services after being told she would not be allowed to attend public school kindergarten because, as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, she was considered a “fire hazard.” She later fought to become the first teacher in a wheelchair in New York City.

Heumann went on to become an official in the Clinton administration and a special advisor in the Obama State Department. She was pivotal to the Rehabilitation Act that sought to end discrimination by any institution receiving federal money leading the way to passing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. She is the author of Being Heumann: The Unrepentant Memoir of a Disabilities Activist and the young adult book Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel. Remembering Heumann’s life is itself an exercise in disability awareness.

Providing services to disabled adults is part of the Mullis Center’s mission. The term “disabled” covers a wide spectrum. Some people are born with disabilities that affect their entire lives. Most of us have experienced temporary disabilities such as a broken arm or sprained ankle. Many of us will lose abilities as we age and anyone’s life can be changed instantly by accident or war.

In support of people with disabilities the Mullis Center partners include Island Rides providing free or affordable transportation for seniors, people with disabilities, and the rural general public. YAAS!, the Young Adult Association of San Juan Island, is another partner. YAAS! is an inclusive social and community service-oriented group for young adults with disabilities.

According to local YAAS! coordinator, Delphina Liles, our local group of about 12 members enjoys a full calendar of activities including excursions to SJCT theatre productions, movies, two seasons of Special Olympics, the 4th of July parade, the County Fair, interisland field trips, a fall retreat, holiday parties, and disability education and advocacy. Said Liles, “Our big adventure for 2023 is to head to Seattle for an overnight trip to see Hairspray, the Broadway musical”.

In partnership and with support from the Mullis Center YAAS! enjoys activities such as making cards and singing for seniors. The Mullis Center has arranged for the use of a wheelchair van for YAAS! and has provided space for YAAS activities. “Mullis, and its staff and partners, make YAAS! members feel seen, included, and loved.” Said Liles. At the same time YAAS! members bring their joy and enthusiasm to the Mullis Center.

For more information visit the Judith “Judy” Heumann website at https://judithheumann.com/ Book a Ride with Island Rides – 360-298-6108 – https://islandrides.org/.