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Disability & Dignity

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By: Anne Mulrooney, Summer Intern

Summer sunsets are notoriously romantic. Almost every chick flick I’ve seen features at least one scene with the sun halfway down the horizon, a close up of a couple holding hands, and some piano piece playing soulfully as the pair embrace. Everything takes on a rosy, golden hue, and you know that something beautiful is happening.

It may be cliché, but it gets me every time. Who can resist the sentimentality of those golden trails of light, so warm and fluid, coasting through the slowly fading sky? It is, undoubtedly, the perfect atmosphere for love.

I sat in my wooden chair at Boulder Coffee shop and watched the rooftops of downtown Rochester take on that signature tinge of rosiness, and smiled as I thought of all the films with rooftops just like those, punctuating some smooching couple. I thought to myself, “These are the kinds of sunsets that make people fall in love.”

I had come to Boulder Coffee shop to see the Slam Poetry, Music and Arts Fest put on by the Center for Disability Rights and Youth Own, RCIL’s youth leadership group for teens and young adults with disabilities. The event was put on to celebrate the 24th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. It was a wonderful way to allow members of the Rochester community to experience disability culture.

But the event served an even greater purpose than cultural awareness. As I watched the members perform and bathed in the sunny, romantic glow by the window, I was struck by a force more ancient than culture, more magnificent than government – love.

Experiencing different cultures is important, but we must remember that our shared humanity is not dependent on culture, socio-economic status, or our physical or cognitive abilities. Rather, we are bonded to one another by virtue of our human dignity. And in the face of such a bond, who could look at their fellow humans with anything but love?

Each performance was a testament to the value of the human experience – how full of joy and how full of beauty it is for all people, from every culture, regardless of their abilities. How happy everyone was to be alive that night! How affectionate and supportive they all were! I was overwhelmed by love.

That night, in a coffee shop lit by the loveliest of sunsets, bursting with music, poetry and wheelchairs, I fell in love with humanity. A life like this, full of love and full of sunsets, deserves to be experienced by everyone, disability or no disability. All human rights deserve celebration and protection, and each one of us deserves a chance to create, and to live, and to love freely . We should all be able to read and write poetry. We should all be able to sing songs, make friends, smile and share our stories with everyone.

We should all be able to fall in love at sunsets.

For life and for love, Anne Mulrooney , summer intern

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