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This poem is about the fight for independent living which began in California where several people with disabilities wanted to go to college and be recognised as individuals rather than just by their disabilities. Even though their challenges were significant they did not give up. In 2012 I watched the opening ceremony of the Paralympic games in London and was surprised to learn that for athletes the challenges in some countries were so great that the British officials were discouraged from giving equipment to them because it couldn’t be maintained or it would be taken away when the competitors return home.

When I heard this I felt so lucky to live in a country where independent living for people with significant physical disabilities is possible. However, even now, in Ireland we are currently fighting for the legal right to have the equal life that personal assistant enables us people with physical disabilities to have.

Universal Dream

Disability rights came from civil rights

In California, people with disabilities

recognised the fight for black people’s freedom

so they could fight for their freedom as well

A few wanted to live on their own

And some to go to college

To feed their thirst for knowledge

They succeeded in their goal

So in many souls the dream took form

For the ultimate prize and human right:

To live, learn and work like everyone else

And so the independent living movement was born!

In 1992 this freedom was given to you and me

When Ireland began creating its own freedom dream

There are over one billion people with disabilities on the planet

But we are not all equal

Very few have the freedom that I speak of above

If they are lucky they may find hope through sport

And if their governments give them enough support

To represent their nation at Paralympic Games

Only to have the equipment taken away on their return home

In some cultures disability is even worse

Because of the belief that a disability

Is the result of a curse on the family several generations back

It is my hope that this dream of freedom becomes a human rights

Be realised in every country of the World

No matter how challenging this dream may seem.

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