I’ve discovered a handy PDF file created by the State of Wisconsin called Opening Doors. This booklet helps parents, teachers, and students navigate the transition from high school to adult services in the State of Wisconsin, with the hope that the information will improve outcomes for students with disabilities. According to State Superintendent Dr. Tony Evers, “It is our mission to prepare Wisconsin’s students to become contributing members of their communities and the world by connecting youth to the resources necessary for a successful transition.” Funny, that’s the goal of most parents, too!
Unfortunately, it seems far too often we fail at this goal. Too many students are directed down paths proven to be isolating and disabling in nature. You see, people with disabilities have both abilities and disabilities. The training, encouragement, and support they receive are strong indicators of whether their abilities or disabilities will be the foremost forces shaping their lives. When we direct students down paths towards sheltered workshops, we are directing them to lives where their disabilities, not their abilities, shape their lives.
In renewing an old contact, I was advised, “DO NOT ACCEPT a sheltered workshop for your son. He will never make any money and will never leave. That’s very clear in the research and in practice statewide in WI.”
There are people trying very hard to change the way things are done in Wisconsin. Sheltered workshops and other disabling pathways are being diverted to make more pathways that provide students with disabilities with strong enabling forces in their lives, so their abilities, not their disabilities, can direct their lives.
Together, those of us who believe in the abilities of people with disabilities can change the way society chooses to provide for and support people with disabilities. Together, we can make sure abilities, not disabilities, are the dominating forces in their lives. No one person can make this change on their own, but together we can!