Friday, March 20, 2015

FDAAF: Reaching out to communities

I established my nonprofit on the principles of education, empathy and inclusion. We all have a sense of belonging, and many of us often feel isolated, like there's something that prevents us from connecting. It's my goal to at least try to make disability not one of the reasons people feel that way. Wherever they are and wherever we go, our message is one and the same at its core:   We identify as many things. All of them together make us who we are. We’re never simply this label or the other. As human beings, we’re diverse individuals with complex life stories. And we are all unique. A community gives us a sense of belonging. Finding others who share some of our struggles makes life easier. But what if you find that your community, the people that should be there for you to turn to and rely on can’t really relate to you that well? You may feel misunderstood and rejected. FDAAF recognizes that disability doesn’t define who we are. That we all function the real world where we have lives and families and friends and jobs and hobbies. That we express ourselves in ways that has nothing to do with our intellectual challenges or physical limitations. But- functioning in all of those other groups while you have a disability often creates a unique set of issues very few people can relate to. Let’s be frank. Many people don’t think about certain things, what it must be like for others unless suddenly they have to or they face the issue themselves. One of the principles FDAAF was founded on is to make them think. And to contemplate areas of life that are often not fun or pleasant. To challenge what people know and how they feel about disabilities. To achieve that goal FDAAF reaches out to communities you may not traditionally associate with disabilities.

Not only to make facilities more accessible, although that is always the first step, but to point and say:” Did you ever stop and think that people with disabilities are part of your group? That they are just like you, that they have passions and goals and interests? They have just this one additional thing. Like a wheelchair or a cane or balance issues”. FDAAF chose the LGBT community as its first focus, because while it claims to promote tolerance and acceptance, many of our gay friends and supporters reported feeling like outcasts in LGBT establishments. Being a minority makes it much harder. The uncomfortable looks, the stares, the whispers made them feel anything but included. When you go out you often want to dance and have a good time, particularly in a culture that often glorifies youth and physical fitness. A wheelchair is none of those things. Seeing it takes you out of that zone and sometimes forces you to think about things you don’t want to think about. It may take you to a dark place (through thoughts and ideas that you yourself may associate with disability, not because individuals with disabilities see it that way).  And although it’s more visible in communities that seem act like they are a hermetic bubble functioning in a vacuum, make no mistake. Acceptance is not a “straight” thing or a “gay” thing. It’s a human thing. And we will continue to design campaigns, reach out to partners, generate publicity to help people with disabilities feel more included. Whoever and wherever in Florida they are.

You can read about our programs and the way you can help, here:

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