Dakota Center for Independent Living


Take just one moment and imagine with me, a life like you never dreamed of. What does it look like? Pause….

Do you live in a castle with servants at your every whim?

Do you live in a beach cabin that you own, no payments, no worries, just swimming, laying on the beach or surfing all day?

I know…you live in a cabin in the mountains. You are perfectly safe and hardly a neighbor within a few miles. Imagine the smell of pine and cedar when you walk out in the morning, the sound of the water from the nearby river splashing against the rocks in the gentle breeze and then in the evening, the smell of the wood burning in the rock fireplace.

Well, none of these scenarios are exactly what I was thinking of when I asked that question. I was thinking more like: what if one of your very first thoughts every morning was, ‘oh, that’s right, I can’t feel anything from my waist down.  I was just dreaming I could walk and I could run, but although my mind says I can, my body tells me different.’

Or maybe if you can imagine with me for a minute, waking up every morning knowing that the depression that pretty much debilitated your life yesterday, made you feel hopeless, an inability to construct or envision a future, could find its way back again today. Even with the meds, there isn’t much you will be able to do about it, except fake the ‘happy’, ‘normal’ person until your mind just won’t allow it any longer and again the enemy of your mind wins another round of the battle.

There are a wide range of disabilities,  such as depression, autism, cerebral palsy, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, visual impairments, hearing loss, speech disorders and on and on. Can you believe that 56.7 million people live with these disabilities every single day of their lives, and this is in the U.S. alone? Can you imagine living your daily life with a disability?  Can you even dream of what it would be like?  I don’t think many of us imagine this for ourselves.

We have many of our own neighbors here in Bismarck, ND, that daily deal with these and numerous other disabilities. What are we doing to help them to have the same quality of life that we are able to enjoy?

We are coming up on 27 years since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else has. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

Now let me give you another challenge.

Imagine yourself for a minute as a person with a disability. What would you want to change about our world so that it would be less difficult to live life like everyone else?  Pause….

Now, change that one thing in yourself, whether it would be an attitude you have or stepping out of your way to make it easier for a person with a disability to enjoy what you naturally get the opportunity to enjoy daily.

The theme for the 2017 Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act is “Pledge On”. Let’s all make a new commitment to be sensitive to our neighbor’s needs, no matter who they are or what their daily struggles are.  It’s part of being a Community.