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Why Advocacy Is Important to Us as a Couple With Disabilities

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We want to raise awareness about people with disabilities. We are people first; we want the same things in life that other people want, and we can achieve those things.

Some people are aware of disabilities like Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, blindness, physical disabilities and the Deaf community. How about people who have hidden disabilities like autism, traumatic brain injury, attention deficit disorder, and cognitive disabilities? People with hidden disabilities also have difficulties in life.

We both feel that all individuals with disabilities have issues that need to be paid attention to and resolved. Some of those issues arise from lack of awareness. Others arise from injustice or lack of opportunity for those with disabilities.

Consider, for example, the issues affecting individuals who work in sheltered workshops and day programs. Imagine, in 2018, working all day for less than minimum wage. It is completely legal to pay people with disabilities these sub-standard wages because of a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act, established 80 years ago to protect workers by establishing a fair minimum wage, overtime pay, and prohibitions on child labor. The act, signed into legislation as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s sweeping legislation, was meant to protect workers — but is doing the complete opposite for people with disabilities. The intentions of the act may have been good; it may have benefited people at the time, but it needs an appropriate update in order truly to be a Fair Labor Act.

I was taught my rights and privileges as a U.S. citizen by early special education practices with very talented teachers that made a difference. Leah and I were taught basic math, reading, writing and cursive, telling time on an analog/face clock and the skills to have an independent life. It was not easy for us to acquire those skills, but we did so through hard work.

There are others like us out there, and we need to stand up for what is just and defend our rights. We need to tell our U.S. and local government officials what needs to change, which programs and services to keep and which are causing problems in our disability communities.

People with disabilities often lose much-needed support if they get married, which is just one of the barriers keeping them from being able to have the same things in life as others. We are not letting these rules or other roadblocks stop us.

Leah and I got married in June. We both know we are going to face some challenges, and we will meet those challenges together.

— Leah and Daniel

Originally published: July 9, 2018
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