Share this article

print logo


America recently welcomed with open arms refugees forced to flee their native soil. America supports the rights of individuals because it is the good and just thing to do.

America is the country that believes people have the right to live where they please. America is the country where tolerance and acceptance are preached; it is the great melting pot. "Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" reads the Statue of Liberty.

P.S. Unless you are disabled and looking for a group home.

When you are looking for a location for a group home, you face prejudice and opposition. This bias is usually thinly veiled as concern for what is best for "those people." Residents are concerned about declining property values and that the clients somehow pose a threat to the community. Does any evidence exist to support these fears?

The general public must become better educated about individuals with special needs. The group homes that I have seen are often among the best-maintained and attractive homes on the block.

The grass is manicured, the house is clean and it is unlikely that the yard will be filled with toys, trampolines, pools and pets. I doubt many of the people complaining about the problems associated with group homes could locate one during a casual drive through the suburbs.

The irrational fear that people with physical and mental disabilities are threatening comes from a severe lack of contact with this population. I would recommend that people spend a week doing volunteer work at a United Cerebral Palsy Association facility or with groups such as the Special Olympics before rushing to judgment about "those people."

What you will find is a collection of the most selfless individuals on the planet. Their ability to give, when they seem to have so little, is impressive and rarely observed in the general population. My son Rob has touched the hearts of hundreds of people with his ability to laugh and smile while confined to a wheelchair and a world of dependence. As the father of a child with cerebral palsy, I have seen firsthand the attitude that many people have toward the disabled. I have seen adults stare, grimace and look with disgust at my son. I have seen parents pull their child away from Rob's wheelchair and tell their child to stay away from "that boy," as if he is contagious.

This behavior is responsible for producing generation after generation of ignorance and fostering an attitude of disrespect toward the disabled. I have heard adults and children alike refer to a clumsy person as a "retard." This not only demonstrates a lack of compassion, but conveys a lack of understanding.

Assuming that a person with limited physical ability is also mentally challenged is absurd; IQ is not directly related to the ability to walk and talk. If you do not believe me, call Stephen Hawking. Words hurt.

Imagine having to spend your entire life not being able to make yourself understood, not being able to understand or not being able to take part in what most other people your age are doing. If you can imagine that, further imagine being told you will not be welcome in a neighborhood because you are "different" from your neighbors.

Please, before you speak out or sign a petition to oppose a group home, take the time to visit one. Imagine you are the disabled person or the parent of a disabled child. Consider the feelings of others and make informed, intelligent choices.

TIMOTHY WILLIAMSON lives in Tonawanda.

For guidelines for columns, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Opinion Pages Guidelines, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

There are no comments - be the first to comment