Recently, I have been reflecting on this past year and how nearly everyone I know has faced some type of challenge. For some, it is the loss of a job or depletion of savings. For others, it is tightening the family budget to cope with a difficult economy. And for others, it is a reorganization of priorities to accommodate work and personal life.
People with disabilities face challenges every day. And like others in our country, we too, have been affected by this once-in-a-lifetime economic event. We are having a tougher time finding – and keeping – employment. As our population ages and health care costs rise, we are digging deeper to pay for much-needed medical care.
We all are learning that the old model of doing things – at least the model we know – is changing. And it’s up to all of us to take the initiative and adapt to these changes. But what do we do when we don’t have all the answers? What do we do when the end result of all this change isn’t clear?
In the last year, I’ve learned that we must bring forward the vulnerable among us. A great example is the unprecedented coalition of businesses, labor organizations, medical professionals, faith-based leaders, citizens, and elected officials who made an effective case for a new Wishard Hospital. Because of the work of these individuals and groups, all citizens will continue to benefit from top-notch health care.
I’ve also learned that those who risk being left behind have strength and power in their numbers. We all have the right to vote, but we must register and become informed of how to exercise this unique power. For people with disabilities, it is incumbent upon us to make our voices heard, either through citizen engagement with elected and community leaders, or through our pocketbooks. In the digital age, it is becoming easier for people with disabilities to communicate and work together.
In the year ahead, I am looking forward to serving as a Distinguished Fellow with Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs, and engaging a new generation of leaders in developing strategies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities and the aging population.
A Greek philosopher once said, “Nothing endures but change.” As we move into the second decade of the second millennium, this ancient teaching still applies. How we adapt – and grow – is up to each of us.
In the coming year, we have much to look forward to…and much more to do. On behalf of The Fehribach Group, I wish you a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year.