As her parent and advocate, I feel compelled to participate in this day, to help further the understanding of life with a disability (or in our case, in caring for a disabled child.) I feel compelled, because it is my way of ensuring a brighter future for my Jenelle. Wouldn't the parent of a "normal" child do the same?
According to LADY BRACKNELL, the disabled community is defined as follows:
“We have two things - and only two things - in common with one another:
1. we have some degree of physical or mental functional loss or difference (we have impairments); and
2. we are excluded from full participation in society because we have impairments (we are disabled).”
Last year, I posted a piece about the first time Jenelle was discriminated against because of her epilepsy. I wanted to show our readers that discrimination against disabilities can happen to anyone at any age as she was only 18 months old at the time. It felt good to share our story, and many took notice, including the BBC. This year, in honor of “Blogging against Disablism Day 2007,” I decided to focus on efforts to show how to include the disabled community in our society, and how we try to share Jenelle with our community.
In October, Jenelle will be 5 and thus, eligible to start Little League in the coming spring. In our family, baseball and Little League are our way of life. Even though she is a girl, had she been “normal” Jenelle would be starting T-ball next Spring. While I think this fact would be a little more heartbreaking had she been a boy it is still one more thing Jenelle cannot do.
In 1989, Little League International began a program called “Challenger League”. The Challenger Division was established as a separate division of Little League Baseball to enable boys and girls with physical and mental disabilities, ages 5-18 or the completion of high school, to enjoy the game of baseball along with the millions of other children who participate in this sport worldwide.
Our League does not have a Challenger Division ... yet. The closest one is a bit of a drive for us on a busy day, so we have approached our League and we are asking them to consider starting a new Challenger Division next year. It sounds promising, and if all goes well, Jenelle will be playing baseball next year along side her brother. And in turn, we will be sharing her beauty and her disability with our friends and neighbors in our immediate area and through our love of baseball. And we will be meeting other families like ours in our city and its surroundings, and we'll be celebrating their disabled children as well, and their challenges in life.
One of the ways to over come "Disablism" is to start including the disabled in our society. I find it encouraging that a sport once thought impossible for a person with a disability to play, is now making the game possible for all children with disabilities. Even better, these children with disabilities are assigned to “buddies” which consist of “typical” children in the community and who are already playing baseball. It is a "win win" situation for both. And in the end, we all come closer to understanding the disabled members of our community and their individual needs.
Normal things are never going to be easy for our girl, and baseball is a difficult game. But, baseball is what this family does, and Jenelle is a member of our family. I sometimes still mourn the fact that Jenelle will never take dance class or enjoy playing with dolls the way I did as a child. However, because of the efforts of Little League with their Challenger Division, Jenelle can and will play baseball. And I know she will love it.