Today – 28th August 2013 – is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I have a Dream’ speech. I always found his words hugely inspiring and it is right that the USA are marking this day so prominently. One of the parts of the speech that always moved me was when Dr. King spoke of his four little children and his dreams and hopes for them. Now as a mother, this part of the speech moves me even more. I too had a lot of dreams for my children – long before I was ever pregnant – but many of those were dashed with the discovery that our unborn baby had a rare neurological condition which has meant she has physical and intellectual disabilities. Two years later we learnt her condition was genetic and so my dreams of a large family were ended.
But we picked ourselves up and we carried on and gradually new dreams emerged. I hoped and dreamed our fabulous girl would walk unaided, would talk, would be able to go school. She now has about 40 words that she uses correctly and is making fantastic progress with her walker. And next week she will be starting big school. So some of our dreams are beginning to come true.
She is only 6 and at the start of her school career so you might think our dreams from here on would be straightforward enough, that she enjoys school, that she continues to make progress, bigger dreams and hopes that one day she might be able to read and write, that she might one day live as independent a life as possible. And yes, those are some of our dreams for her. But over this summer we have been hearing stories and reports that threaten some of our long-term dreams for her and rather give us fears. Reports like this one about 153 school leavers with disabilities being left in limbo with no services being provided for them. Another report today of further cuts to disability services which means that some families will have their respite services reduced or transport limited and residential and day services restricted. I know some of the families who are being affected by these cuts and I know the added worry and stress these cuts have placed on people who are already living under constant levels of stress and worry that would get you signed off work. To have this added to because of budgetary constraints is simply disgusting.
I have a new dream for our daughter now – its that she will get the services she needs for the rest of her life. But this shouldn’t be a dream. It is her right. I have a dream – a dream that every person with disabilities will be seen and will be treated as a full and equal citizen in our country. I have a dream today.