By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPCC
Rather than abruptly today end this column after 15 years of typing away, I will next week have one final profile of a person with a disability. This gives print and online newspaper editors an extra week to secure a suitable replacement.
I'm ending for a good reason. It's due to my current maxed-out workload as a licensed professional clinical counselor and seeing clients with severe and persistent mental illness, mainly in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. I also see teens. The work week has only so many hours, and I need more time for that mission.
At its peak, “Disabilities” was reaching 750,000 daily/weekly newspaper readers a week, along with an unknown number of online readers, from Hawaii to Connecticut, and Montana to Florida. My special thanks go to former Green Bay Press-Gazette section editor Jean Peerenboom, who supported the column early on and offered encouragement. She took on “Disabilities” for her Health section in part because of witnessing a lifetime of prejudice directed at her younger sister with multiple disabilities, which included her sister being deaf and having mild cerebral palsy.
In a 2005 feature, Peerenboom said, “Being the oldest (child), I've always wanted to protect my younger sister. So how do you change attitudes and ignorance? You have to keep telling people that Nancy and others like her are like everyone else.” As an aside, Peerenboom's sister ended up marrying, having three children, and being employed by the U.S. Postal Service. Her cerebral palsy hadn't affected her intelligence.
I learned early on that many editors were publishing this column for the same reason as Peerenboom's, just like I wrote for the same reason. We all “got” it because of our firsthand experience with disability. I hope you've “gotten” it, too.
Just because I'm wrapping up next week doesn't mean our “Disabilities by Daniel J. Vance” Facebook page or my writing in general also will end. On the contrary, I will continue posting relevant disability-related information on Facebook going forward and, as opportunities arise and time allows, will write one-off freelance articles on disability-related issues for publications.
My hope over the last 15 years has been that people with disabilities somehow would benefit from this column, awareness would be raised, and that people with disabilities would be genuinely portrayed as being “like everyone else.” Be sure to read my last column next week featuring a blind friend treading over a rough path.
Facebook: Disabilities by Daniel J. Vance. [Sponsored by Blue Valley Sod.]