Special Needs Heroes: Paving The Way For The Rest Of Us
I just watched the most heart-wrenching story on CNN about the disabled in Kenya. It is so sad to see how even in today’s world there are disabled people who are locked up and chained like animals with no access to basic dignities. The families are outcasts because G-d gave them a special needs child.
Caily, thank G-d, is born into an enlightened world. Most first world countries have laws that demand that the disabled population is treated equally. There are cohorts of Down syndrome kids that have had 20 years of intervention and are now able to live independently, some even going to university. New York State provides some of the best services in the world to our kids. Ironically, it is just our Jewish Day Schools in Manhattan that are in the dark ages, denying the special needs population the right to equality. But that aside, if you are disabled, your life in New York City is so different from that in Kenya and other places around the world.
My good friend Richard Bernstein, a lawyer, professor and an amazing person, was born blind. He is a lawyer that fights for the rights of disabled. He is also an incredible athlete who has completed iron man triathlons and other physical challenges. He has been travelling to third world countries to share a powerful message about the disabled. In many countries, athleticism is highly valued and he is breaking stereotypes of what the disabled can achieve and working with governments to change their policies. The Israeli army heard of his success and he now frequently travels to Israel to inspire soldiers. The army started a program Kol B’ Rosh – it’s all in the mind. Richard is the ambassador of the program. Imagine that one of the world’s most powerful armies is using a special needs, blind person to inspire soldiers.
My favorite saying is “when G-d gives you a special needs child that is G-d’s choice – how you treat that child is your choice.”
Metroimmas, do you know of a remarkable special needs child or individual who has overcome great challenges to succeed? Please share your stories as they inspire us all.
Originally published: March 29, 2011