Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What's on Your Wish List?

When was the last time you made a wish list? The kind you made when you were a child, spending hours, days and months fine-tuning it. Then you’d leave the list in the most conspicuous place in the house (in our house, anything propped against the kettle was found within minutes). The man with the white beard and red suit was ostensibly the recipient, but by the ripe old age of eight, you knew better.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent the last 20 years reading wish lists (my kids are in their 20s, but they still send me their Christmas lists) rather than putting my visions down on paper.

Why talk about wish lists in June? Well, recently, I was cooling my heels in a dentist’s office. An abscessed tooth extraction was looming over me like the proverbial black cloud and I needed something to distract me. As usual, I made my way over to the familiar sanctuary of the magazine table in the corner. The cover of April’s issue of Reader’s Digest caught my eye (hey, I was in a dentist’s office – if you prefer to read the current issue of your favourite magazine, avoid a doctor's or dentist's office like the plague). It was hard to resist the cover story, It’s a Wonderful Life (How You Can Make It Better). A good portion of the magazine was dedicated to showcasing global heroes who are championing the cause of environmental protection.

“In small ways and big, global citizens are making a difference. Regular citizens are doing their bit to make our world a better place. They’re pitching in to help the planet.”

Page after page catalogued the various heroes working tirelessly to save our planet. It got me thinking: If Reader’s Digest were to showcase people and organizations that are making a difference in the lives of the intellectually disabled, who would be on their list?

And that’s when my wish list sprang to mind fully-formed. I wanted to create a list of global heroes who are championing the rights of the intellectually disabled community (which would then appear in a mainstream magazine).

A neat fantasy, but the list was in need of a trim job. One blog post couldn’t hope to contain even a fraction of the heroes who are working on behalf of the disabled community, so I wrote the names of organizations, or individuals, on post-it notes and threw them into a hat. Then I pulled out the first five notes. (No one can accuse me of an in-depth research approach, but then my wish list will not appear in the next issue of Reader’s Digest, or any magazine for that matter.)


Photojournalist Dan Habib rarely thought about inclusion before he had his son Samuel seven years ago. Now he thinks about inclusion every day. Habib’s documentary film Including Samuel examines the educational and social inclusion of youth with disabilities as a civil rights issue.

Journalist Patricia Bauer’s News & Commentary on Disability Issues blog: "More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges. Join journalist Patricia E. Bauer as she seeks to bring you the best information about what's happening now and what it may mean for you and your loved ones."

I’m Tyler: Tyler is a typical high school student who happens to have cerebral palsy and some other challenges. He has taken on a mission to educate the world about Ability Awareness. He believes that what a person, any person, CAN do is much more important than what he/she can't.


Best Buddies® is the world's largest nonprofit organization for the intellectually disabled. Best Buddies Canada is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing our communities through one-to-one friendships between individuals with intellectual disabilities and students.

L’Arche is a place of belonging for people living with a disability and those who share life with them. Since 1964, men and women of good will, with and without intellectual disability, are commiting to each other in L'Arche to break down the barriers of fears that separate us and to create new places of belonging where everyone is important and can contribute. L'Arche is an international movement.

Film documentary:

Living Proof: The Right to Live in the Community - Living Proof provides a voice for members of society who are all too often ignored. Stigma and discrimination perpetuate a social welfare system that keeps people with intellectual disabilities from realizing their fundamental right to live independently. By describing the experiences and presenting opinions of people with intellectual disabilities, this film demonstrates the importance of achieving change in the social welfare system and in society as a whole.

Before Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975, millions of children received inadequate special education services, and at least one million children were prevented from attending public schools altogether. Going to School, a film documentary, details the effort of the Los Angeles Unified School District to include students with disabilities in the curriculum and provide them with the same educational opportunities as other students.

Film Festivals:

Sprout Film Festival: People with developmental disabilities as subjects and performers remain marginalized in the media. The Sprout Film Festival aims to raise their profile by showcasing works in all genres featuring this population.

8th International Disability Film Festival – A short of the films that were presented in 2008. Launched in 1999, the London Disability Film Festival has grown in size, quality and impact every year. The festival has served as a model for other disability film festivals in Finland, Canada, Greece and Turkey. Its insistence on accessible premises and access facilities and programming has resulted in its becoming a beacon of best practice.

Toronto Special Olympics (Local: Toronto, ON) The organization's primary objective is to contribute to the physical, social, and psychological development of people who have a mental disability through positive, successful experiences in sports.

Ok, so I didn’t limit my wish list to five. Frankly, the list is endless – a fact that leaves me deeply grateful.

What about you? Who is on your wish list? Who would you like to see showcased in a mainstream magazine?

Oh, and here’s one more person I couldn’t resist adding to the list:



Andrew in Nova Scoita said...

I must admit I never quite thought about a wish list in the field of intellectual disabilities. How profound!! It's no wonder you could not keep it to a handful ... there are so many out there making a difference.

Another confession, a friend has been telling me about your blog for a long time and I have never visited it. My apologies. Especially since I work in the field. Boy am I glad I finally did. I think I read your blog from top to bottom. You're probably thinking I having nothing to do, right? Oh I do. Love this sort of blog because it leaves me thinking.

Thanks Maureen for a wonderfuly written blog and information galore. I noticed that you are connected with an organization called Ideal-Way. Scanned their website from top to bottom too. Are they on your wish list. :)

I will definitely be back and will spread the word. Peace!

Jack said...

Thanks for everything to given these type of information:)

Maureen Lee said...

Andrew, thank you for visiting our blog - and we appreciate your kind words. I agree that there are so many out there making a difference, so I think I'll make it a habit to update my wish list, from time to time.

P.S. Ideal-Way is definitely on my wish list! (Thanks, too, for spreading the word.)

Don said...

I would be delighted “to see showcased in a mainstream magazine” our creative org Ideal-Way. Of course, I am biased. But, your ask was irresistible. And, it is worthy.

Donald Yeo, CEO
Ideal-Way Inc.

Terri said...

What an excellent list!

Maureen Lee said...

Don, maybe one day Reader's Digest - or another popular magazine - will publish a story (or section) on a selection of the wonderful organizations, and individuals, who are working tirelessly on behalf of the intellectually disabled. And maybe, Ideal-Way will be one of their picks!

Thank you, Terri, for your feedback. I've decided to update the list, from time to time, as one entry simply wasn't enough!

Shaun from Kamloops said...

This blog is one great find! Kudos for being exceptionally well written. It is so very informative, thought provoking and motivating that I just had to bookmark it. Thanks.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Shaun, for visiting our blog. We appreciate your kind words!

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