Inclusion is Within Everyone’s Ability


TALES BLOG /Inclusion is Within Everyone's Ability

Written by Margaret Stinnett, Hand in Paw's Executive Director

Remember Sesame Street in the 70’s and 80’s? My favorite segment was always the “word of the day”.  Children learn words by hearing them frequently, being taught a definition and in turn, incorporating that word into their own vocabulary. So do adults.

A new word (for me) is “ableism”. Please see the definition included here.

The gist of it is – we decide/judge/assume things about a person when we realize their abilities are different than our very own. Having a son with an Intellectual Disability, the past 16 years have been an education for me. First learning my son’s strengths and weaknesses, doing my best to find the best services for him and the real eye opener is experiencing the way the general public interacts with a person who has a disability. People don’t always know how to act or what to say.

Fortunately, the evolution of the treatment of persons with disabilities has triumphed over the previous 500 years. Most importantly, changes in public access, special parking situations and other accommodations have helped wheelchair users, disabled people and seniors with declining mobility continue to live and thrive in our world.

Hand in Paw serves many individuals and families facing a range of abilities. Our volunteers are trained to work with their strengths and treat them the same as any other person. There is not only the compassion, educational opportunities, physical/occupational therapy interventions – but most of all the celebration of everyone’s abilities and not their challenges. December 3rd is the date the world has declared “International Day of Persons with Disabilities”. This inspired me to share with our blog readers about how Hand in Paw not only serves those with disabilities, but we have volunteers that serve our community who have disabilities themselves.

We recently trained and placed a wonderful Therapy Team, Miranda and Kaz.

Miranda and Kaz are out there! Miranda, moving through hospitals and other facilities in a wheelchair, with her devoted partner, Kaz alongside her, sends a message to those receiving our services. It is an overwhelmingly positive one! Miranda is a wheelchair user – but look closely – Miranda is serving her community and bringing joy to others. Children in wheelchairs need to see people enjoying their lives. We all need to understand that a disability is not a sentence to a lesser life; but a life that might look different than the “average” persons. We are so proud to have Miranda on our team! She loves the Animal-Assisted Therapy work that she does and appreciates all the smiles and encouragement she gives and receives as she and Kaz focus on improving the lives of others. This blog is dedicated to Miranda and Kaz – they are an amazing team.

Hand in Paw welcomes volunteers of all abilities. We all face physical, emotional, and mental challenges going through our lives. Hand in Paw has been serving our community and nurturing both the challenges and the victories we all face in the human condition for over 26 years. Animal-Assisted Therapy continues to provide therapeutic benefits, such as helping people improve fine motor skills, increasing social interactions, reducing anxiety and loneliness, and improving communication with others.