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The Call for Change: Reflecting on Theo Braddy's "The Greatest Motivator"

Author: Jensen Caraballo

The recent message from Theo Braddy, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), titled "The Greatest Motivator," serves as a poignant reminder of the persistent challenges and societal barriers faced by individuals with disabilities. As a fellow advocate and a person who has navigated similar paths, Braddy’s words resonate deeply with me and echo the sentiments of many in the disability community.

Braddy's recount of his experiences, starting from his life in a nursing home at 15, lays bare the stark reality of societal attitudes towards disability. His journey encapsulates a narrative familiar to many of us - one where aspirations and abilities are overshadowed by societal perceptions and systemic barriers. His emphasis on the oppressive nature of policies, such as asset limits, sheds light on a critical issue: the forced choice between necessary support and financial independence, a choice no individual should ever have to make.

Theo's message is not just a recount of personal challenges; it's a clarion call for collective action and change. It reminds us that societal low expectations, rather than being a source of despair, can be the greatest motivator for advocacy and reform. In this spirit, I find myself reflecting on the intersectionality of our advocacy work. The fight for disability rights is inherently linked to broader issues of social justice, including racial equality, healthcare access, and economic justice.

As an advocate at the Center for Disability Rights, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of collective action. Our work goes beyond addressing individual needs; it's about dismantling the systemic biases that perpetuate inequality and hinder independent living. We strive not just for accommodation, but for a society that truly values and embraces diversity in all its forms.

In echoing Braddy's call, I urge us all to use societal low expectations as fuel for our advocacy fire. Let us work towards a world where living independently in the community with appropriate supports is not the exception, but the norm. A world where policies are crafted with the understanding that disability rights are human rights.

We must continue to challenge oppressive systems and advocate for changes in policies and attitudes. This includes pushing for the end of harmful practices like shock therapy against disabled individuals and advocating for home and community-based services and supports. Our advocacy is also about ensuring that places like Salvatore's and others are fully accessible, not just in physical infrastructure but in attitude and service.

The journey is long and arduous, but as Braddy's message reminds us, it's a journey worth taking. With each step, we move closer to a society that not only accommodates but celebrates the diversity and potential of every individual, regardless of disability. Let us take inspiration from Theo Braddy's words and continue our relentless pursuit of justice and equality.

Jensen Caraballo in cursive lettering
Jensen Caraballo

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