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The Right To Fail

by Jensen Caraballo

September 6, 2012 - a date etched in my memory, marking my transition from life in a nursing facility to independent living in the community. A journey many predicted would be short-lived, doomed to fail. Yet, here I am, a decade later, living proof that predictions don't dictate destiny.

My story isn't just about defying odds; it's about a fundamental right often overlooked for people with disabilities – the right to fail. This concept might seem counterintuitive. Why advocate for the right to fail? The answer lies in the inequality of expectations and opportunities afforded to disabled individuals.

In society, failure is a universal experience, an integral part of human growth and learning. Yet, for people with disabilities, the margin for error often feels nonexistent. We are scrutinized under a microscope, with every move weighed against an unrealistic standard of perfection. The underlying message is clear: to earn our basic human rights, we must be flawless.

This disproportionate expectation stems from a deep-seated fear of failure, not just in ourselves but in the eyes of those around us. When I decided to leave the nursing home, the overwhelming concern wasn't for my potential to succeed but for the high probability of failure. This fear, though perhaps rooted in concern, inadvertently becomes a barrier. It sends a message that our worth and our rights are contingent upon our ability to navigate life without stumbling.

What gets lost in this narrative is the essential truth that failure is not a detriment but a stepping stone. It's a natural part of life's learning curve, one that should be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. By denying us the right to fail, society denies us the opportunity to grow, learn, and ultimately, to succeed on our own terms.

The right to fail is more than the freedom to make mistakes; it's about having the same opportunity to try, to experiment, and to learn from those experiences as anyone else. This right is integral to our independence and autonomy. It's a recognition that our lives, like all lives, are works in progress, filled with trials and errors, successes and setbacks.

In advocating for the right to fail, we're not asking for lower standards or special treatment. Instead, we're demanding equality – the same chance to try, to fail, and to try again, just as any nondisabled person. Our civil rights must not hinge on an unrealistic expectation of perfection. They should be inherent, unshakable, and not subject to revocation at the first sign of struggle.

As we continue to fight for disability rights, let's broaden our focus. Let's include in our advocacy the right to fail, the right to be imperfect, and the right to learn and grow from our experiences. It's time to shift the narrative from fear of failure to the celebration of resilience and determination.

Over a decade since my journey into independent living began, I've faced challenges and setbacks, but I've never once considered returning to the nursing home. My journey is a testament to the fact that the right to fail is, in essence, the right to live a full, unscripted life. It's a right that belongs to every one of us, disability or not.

The Right To Fail
The Right To Fail

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