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My “Why JMF?”: disABILITIES Do Not Define Us

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”  Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Excellence in Service Award Winner, Ivette Bruns, reflects on her “Why JMF?” from her years of service with the Joseph Maley Foundation.

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Our 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt was partially paralyzed by polio in 1921.  While he used a wheelchair, he took great effort to never be photographed in one.  At that time, public opinion equated a person with a disability with being weak.  It was even reported that FDR was “getting better” in order to run for public office.  He used crutches to walk in public and gripped the podium when he gave speeches in order to not be seen in a wheelchair, to not appear weak.  Franklin D. Roosevelt was anything but weak.  He helped the American people through the Great Depression and through World War II.    He fought every day to regain strength in his legs and spent many days exercising in a pool at a resort in Warm Springs, GA, now known as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.  In addition, architectural adjustments were made at this facility that were far in advance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and ADA Standards for Accessible Design (2010).  It is these standards I reference in my architectural specifications for every commercial project designed today.

I became involved with JMF when disABILITY Awareness was the only program – helping children understand the visible and invisible disabilities in others.  Allowing them to “walk” in the shoes of those with visible disabilities, if even for just a day.  When I was young, the only statement ever made about people with disabilities was “don’t stare.”  JMF has helped children understand that our disabilities do not define us.  Each of us have so many abilities that makes us unique.  What an amazing thing to look beyond the disabilities and truly “see” the person!  We are only disabled by our own misconceptions.

I have since become involved with several other JMF functions and continue to grow and appreciate the abilities and strength in every person.  It is my hope programs such as disABILITY Awareness, JMFriends, HOPE and JMFitness start an expanding impact with all the children and adults involved in these programs that reach well beyond our city, our state, and our country.  It is my hope that a visible or invisible disability will never deter anyone from doing anything they want to do, including running for public office.

Post written by: Ivette Bruns, Excellence in Service Award Winner 2016