There was a time in the recent history of this country when people with disabilities, regardless of the nature or degree of disability, were housed in institutions. This long era of shame and hidden family secrets destroyed lives through guilt and broken human bonds. When someone lives in an institution, whether due to disability, mental illness or simply lack of family to care for a child, even if that person receives visitors, at the bottom of the heart, this human being knows that she is not loved, not wanted. I am not talking about dangerous criminals or people who pose a threat to society. I am talking about people who are striving to find a home, a place to belong and may need special accommodations to be able to do so.
During the last few decades, primarily due to dedicated organizations like Imagine!, major civil rights developments have occurred, including one called self-determination, which defines the principle that people with disabilities have the right to choose how to live their own lives. For self-determination to be successful, four factors are essential—loved ones, friends in the community, professionals and community services like Imagine! and Via. While Via has not been on the “road” as long as Imagine!—50 years versus Via’s 34—both nonprofit organizations are committed to true inclusion and choice for older adults and individuals living with disabilities.
Imagine! provides services including educational and behavioral health, job training and placement, technology solutions and support for families—all designed to incorporate people with developmental, cognitive and physical challenges into the fabric of their communities. Via equalizes access to the essential connections of community life for people living with mobility limitations through its specialized transportation and mobility options programs. Collectively, the two nonprofits served almost 5,000 Boulder County residents in 2012.
There is enormous human and societal cost in institutionalizing human beings. This era of lost lives is not completely over. While tremendous progress has occurred, the work of Imagine! will never be done. I say this not to deter enthusiasm, but to encourage determination to achieve the goal of realizing the potential of every person living with a disability in our community.
When you go to the supermarket and there’s the guy with Down syndrome bagging your groceries, do not look at this person as disabled. Look at him as someone with a life story worth knowing. It’s so incredibly important that if you are somebody who feels a passion for people with disabilities because you have a loved one who has a disability, or you have a larger faith that every human being has a purpose on earth that may not be known to you, you need to go out and you need to fight for their rights and services that support self-determination. That’s what Imagine! has been doing for 50 years.
We at Via salute you. And with deep honor, Via will be right by Imagine!’s side in the drive to give all people in the community the opportunity to live their dreams, have a sense of purpose and find their own unique place in the community.
Mary Cobb, Director of Communications