A nice e-mail about my column the other day on the disabled and work:
“I really appreciated your article on the mentally disabled. We have a 21 year old adopted daughter from India. She happens to be mentally and physically disabled and can’t physically care for herself She lives with us but goes to our local DAC (developmental achievement center) 4 days a week. There she gets a small paycheck every two weeks and does simple jobs like shredding paper (they had to make her a special device even to do that). She also (with help) makes a line of greeting cards using rubber stamps. These are sold in the thrift store belonging to the DAC (which employs DAC clients). These activities, together with socialization with other DAC clients, are very important to her. They give her life meaning.
The DAC – and Heartland Homes, which provides supervised living facilities for the disabled as well as respite care – are state chartered and supported non profit organizations. The living facilities include dedicated apartments and homes in the community. They are FIRST CLASS accommodations specifically designed for the handicapped. DAC clients have jobs in the community or at the DAC. In fact, the DAC operates the county recycling center and thus provides well paying jobs, in a supervised environment, for high-functioning clients. The directors of the DAC and Heartland Homes, together with the staffs they have put together, are absolutely phenomenal people who do a spectacular job for all their clients. Other states could use the Minnesota programs as an example.
Our community has embraced the mentally and physically disabled, and accepted them for the human beings they are, largely because the DAC and Heartland Homes place them in the community where people can get to know them. I wouldn’t live anywhere else in this country but right here with our daughter.
When I was young and lived in Minneapolis I remember a young child in a wheel chair in our neighborhood who was picked up every day by a handicap bus and taken to the Michael Dowling School. No one in the neighborhood ever knew this child and I realized one day I never even knew if the child was a boy or a girl. Thank heavens those days are past.”