Below is a Letter to the Editor from Barbara Pritchard to the News-Gazette, Champaign
This is in response to The Arc of Illinois Executive Director Tony Paulauski’s May 26, 2013 letter to the News-Gazette and the guest commentary by Rita Winkeler on June 9, 2013.
I am an individual with developmental disabilities who has worked for over 25 years in the field of disability rights. I grew up in segregated schools and was lucky to have parents who helped push the state system to allow me to stay at home and live my life in “normal” surroundings.
As a person with a disability, I have had the privilege of meeting many individuals who have spent their lives in a segregated, large, congregate facility. I remember meeting Patti when I was in college. She was 16 and spent most of her day in a large crib at Lincoln Developmental Center. She and I shared the same disability of cerebral palsy. Patti was unable to speak, but had a wonderful laugh and could understand everything I said. I always wondered why she had been placed in LDC. She and I were not that different.
Joe was quiet and soft-spoken but very adamant that he wanted life outside of Jacksonville Developmental Center. After 8 years of sharing his story I was delighted to read Joe’s testimony to the legislature who were considering closing JDC. By this time, Joe had been living in his own apartment with a roommate and working in the community. He wanted everyone to know how living in the community changed his life and that it’s possible for everyone.
These are just two of many examples I can share but the point is living in the community is something all of us can realize, no matter how severe the disability. I agree with Mr. Paulauski that our state is gravely behind the times and I support the Governor’s plan to rebalance our community system to allow more individuals like Patti and Joe to live fulfilling lives in the communities that fit their needs with individually tailored services. This is my dream for all of us. After all, our Constitution guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423