Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.
The movie The Imitation Game shares the story of mathematician Alan Turing, who works to break the German’s enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians. Turning is portrayed as an individual who may be on the autism spectrum. As a child, he is bullied by his classmates.
His one friend gives him hope when he shares with him, “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
As I listened to those words, and learned what Turning went on to accomplish, it made me think of the many people I have met through The Arc, both individuals with disabilities and their parents, who have accomplished things that many would never have imagined.
I think of Ilene Younger Qualkenbush and Dorothy Burnside, the original “lobbyists” for The Arc beginning in the mid ‘50’s at a time when women did not typically enter the halls of the Indiana State House. At that time, there were no supports or services to help families care for their loved ones at home, and Ilene and Dorothy had to make the difficult decision to place their daughters at Muscatatuck State Hospital. Who would have imagined that Ilene would go on to be a founder of The Arc and that together, Ilene and Dorothy would work to pass legislation that led to the system of services we have today.
Who would have thought that Betty Williams, whose school teachers told her she could not take certain classes because of her disability, would go on to serve on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities; or that Melody Cooper, a shy and quiet girl, bullied by classmates who did not understand her disability, would lead Self-Advocates of Indiana and work to help others with disabilities move from institutions to homes in the community throughout the state.
Over the past several weeks I have been thinking of Grace Akers, a young lady who left this world too soon, just shy of her 17th birthday. Grace was born with Moebius Syndrome, a condition that primarily affects the 6th and 7th cranial nerves, leaving those with the condition unable to have facial expressions. There were surely those who did not imagine anything of what Grace would accomplish in her short life. But for perhaps those few, how wrong they were to make such an assumption.
Her parents, Joe and Jennifer, shared in a tribute to Grace, “Grace loved playing her guitar, purple and pink, (and) listening to Elvis and Patsy Cline … She worked to teach the world about inclusion for people with disabilities, and she lived her life as a reminder about the message that “Everyone belongs.” She promoted kindness and courage and tolerance, and she was a source of inspiration to people all over the world.”
Her legacy now is that her family has requested that her life be honored by paying it forward with a “Gift of Grace” to let the world know that Grace was here and made a difference.
Grace’s legacy, and the continued actions of countless individuals with disabilities and their families, will continue do the things that no one can imagine; and the world will be a better place for it.
Sally Morris is Assistant Director of Public Relations for The Arc of Indiana