Just Like You and Me– Thoughts on Disabilities Awareness Month

On a cold Wednesday morning, I sat around a small conference table with Dave and Aidan, sipping orange juice and eating donuts, while the sun shone warm through two huge windows and we chatted about our love of sweets. It was a morning meeting just like many other morning meetings.

Yet, this wasn’t a typical meeting for me. Usually, I am getting together with managers or directors to discuss funding needs so that I can pursue grants for many of our programs. On this morning, however, I was meeting with two of Grafton’s clients to discuss their individual needs so that I could be a voice for them and share their lives with you.

As March is Disabilities Awareness Month, I wanted to talk with Dave and Aidan to find out what they wanted people to know about what it is like to live with a disability.

Dave and Aidan are house mates.They share a living room and a kitchen.They interact with the same staff, usually eat the same dinner, work together at the same place, and attend the same day programs.But they are as different from each other as you and I.

Dave has lived at Grafton since 1995. Aidan came to Grafton in 2010. Dave is 46 years old. Aidan is 22.

Dave doesn’t seem to be aware that he has a disability, while Aidan knows that he is considered to have one.

For Dave, there isn’t anything difficult about his life and not much he would change.

Aidan says that it’s difficult to have people look at you differently. He really wishes they wouldn’t.

Aidan has a great group of friends. He doesn’t want to be the center of attention, but he really loves making people laugh. When he’s not working, he’s at his house, listening to music, watching TV, and talking on the phone. He loves movies, particularly those starring Kevin Hart.He enjoys going out to eat and loves pizza, lasagna, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and sweets.

Dave loves playing sports and is active in Special Olympics.He plays basketball often, but he loves bowling most. He goes to the alleyevery Monday evening.It’s his favorite day of the week.

When he’s not working or involved with sports, he likes to hang out at his home.He loves watching the 80’s show Small Wonder, usually alone in his room, because others in the house don’t enjoy it the way he does.On Wednesdays, Dave goes to a day program, where he listens to music and does craft work. He loves green beans, broccoli, and bean burritos.

Eventually, Aidan hopes to run his own carpet cleaning business.He enjoys working alone and owns his own carpet cleaner.

In the future, Dave wants to be a fry cook at Roy Rogers.He’s just waiting for one to open locally.

I asked both of these gentlemen what they would change about having a disability.They said they would change nothing.I asked if there was anything that made their either lives better or worse.They said no.And as we talked, the message became very clear to me.

The awareness we need to have during March for Disability Awareness Month, and every month thereafter, is that Dave and Aidan’s lives are pretty much like yours and mine.

They live in a house with roommates.They have interests and strengths.They have favorite foods and activities.

They have areas where they excel and things that they really don’t like.They are involved in meal planning and house cleaning. They have friends, and they have hopes, and they have dreams for the future. Just like me. Just like you.

If we can remember this, maybe Aidan’s wish will finally come true and people will stop looking at him differently. Because deep down, we really aren’t that different at all.