On day six, we met Karen, the Cultural Attache, and Caroline in the morning in the hotel lobby. We then went to a coffee shop for a breakfast meeting with the media to discuss the program in Indonesia and my personal story. At first, we were worried about the reporters not showing up since it is the rainy season, but a reporter arrived and he was awesome.
We were there for almost two hours as he interviewed me for a feature article. He asked about examples of productivity and accessibility in the United States. Mary provided several examples of accessibility for people who are deaf, blind, autistic, and those who live with mobility disabilities. He was amazed and really wanted to know as much as possible.
When we talked about the lack of employment, he talked about people he sees as beggars on the street or working out of their homes as tailors. He told us that the government will not provide healthcare unless you are employed, and that means people with disabilities will not have insurance unless they pay for it – tragic!!
The U.S. State Department will send me the article, translated, for my use in the U.S. I cannot wait to read it and share it with you. This young man put his heart and soul in the article and his level of interest was so refreshing that I could have spent the entire day with him.
Now comes the hard part, when we say good bye to our new friends from the U.S. State Department. Caroline told me the trip had transformed her, but it also transformed me. I cannot say enough about the help from the U.S. Embassy and the Consulates.
In closing, I have really enjoyed this State sponsored trip. I will not be able, nor would I want to, forget my brothers and sisters in Indonesia. Mary often talked about the heart of the people we met in Indonesia, and she is right – they are so kind and wonderful – and they need help.
I am going back to the U.S. to work with a pilot group of companies to determine what we can do to help provide training or apprenticeships for the people with disabilities in Indonesia. I refuse to leave them with only hope. Hope does not provide economic independence and freedom.
No matter where I go in the world, there is stigma and lack of opportunities for people with disabilities. A disability is a disability no matter where you live.
We still have a long way to go in the U.S., but we have the Americans with Disabilities Act that changed the lives of millions of people with disabilities for the better. We have leaders like Tony Coelho, Justin Dart, Judy Heumann, and I. King Jordan, Ed Roberts, Senator Tom Harkin, and of course, President Bush who signed the ADA. We need to share this history and help all people gain what everyone wants – the right and opportunity to work.
Thank you Jennifer Bochner and the U.S. State Department for reaching out to help change the world – you have.