I grew up in the segregated South, especially the ten years, 1947 to 1957, from age five to 15, that my family lived in Richmond, Virginia, where my father was the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Center and my mother ran the Center’s nursery school. Both were ardent integrationists, and my father played an important role in getting Richmond’s parks and recreational facilities de-segregated, which is to say, open to everyone.
That’s the essence of segregation, that what its proponents claimed was only separation of the races was really about exclusion, about denying access to some people to what was openly available to everyone else.
Few people choose to be excluded, and that’s the other defining characteristic of segregation: it is always something imposed on its targets.
Segregation is a door slammed shut right in your face.
It’s a wonder that people with disabilities aren’t angrier, because as our guest today, documentary film-maker Dan Habib has said, they, particularly people with intellectual disabilities, are “the most systematically segregated people in America.”
Segregation is a creation of expectation – irrational, limiting expectation. Few Whites in Richmond had any personal experience or factual data that could justify the separation and unequal treatment their expectations imposed on people of color.
Similarly, few of us have much personal experience with people with disabilities, and we let data discourage us from even thinking about improving disabled people’s lives. But all that data describes or mis-describes the population kept in segregation.
Now that people with challenges are being de-segregated, the data is getting better, and so are lives. As desegregation measured in the inclusion of people with disabilities in “mainstream” classes in public schools, in workplaces, in the world progresses, as people experience one another, expectations go up.
It’s great that more and more people are taking the blinders off their expectations for people with disabilities, but it’s even greater that disabled people’s expectations for themselves are going up even faster.
Dan Habib (pronounced “Habeeb”) is the creator of the award-winning documentary films Including Samuel, Who Cares About Kelsey?, Mr. Connolly Has ALS, and many other short films on disability-related topics. Habib is a filmmaker at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability. He is currently working on a new documentary, Intelligent Lives, which will examine our society’s narrow perceptions of intelligence.
Including Samuel was broadcast nationally on public television stations in the fall of 2009, and Who Cares About Kelsey? aired on public television in the fall of 2013. Both films were nominated for Emmy awards. Including Samuelhas been translated into 17 languages and is used as a teaching tool worldwide.
Before joining UNH in April of 2008, Habib was the photography editor of the Concord Monitor (NH). In 2006 and 2008, he was named the national Photography Editor of the Year and has been a judge of the Pulitzer Prizes and the Best of Photojournalism. He is a six-time New Hampshire photographer of the year and his freelance work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. In 2012, Habib received the Champion of Human and Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association, and in 2013 he received the Justice for All Grassroots Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Can full inclusion happen in high school? Yes!! Garrett shows you what inclusion and self-determination look like in the new, FREE film from the INTELLIGENT LIVES Project: “Garrett Shows: I’m in Charge.” Garrett leads his own IEP meetings, interns at the middle school, works part time, plays Unified Sports, and is focused on earning his high school diploma and attending college.
Share this 16-minute film with your school, organization, workplace, or family during Inclusive Schools Week (December 3-7). You can also view three other short documentaries that will open doors to college and careers for students with disabilities in your community.