At Brigham Young University-Idaho, a student named Cesar Ibanez is working toward a degree in biology with the aim of becoming a biophysicist. Ibanez has a genetic disease, spinal muscular atrophy, that prevents him from having any control of his legs, and limited control of other muscles. He requires assistance with, well, just about everything – dressing, showering, even getting out of bed. His drive to get an education in spite of the obstacles he faces is admirable.
But Cesar’s future prospects aren’t what I want to talk about.
Ibanez moved into an assisted-living home for his first semester and the university agreed to temporarily bus him to class until he could find an apartment close to campus. He wasn’t able to find one, so when his housing contract was up, six of his friends stepped up to help, insisting that he move in with them.
There are so many great nuggets in the story – go read it here.
In the comments below the story, one individual wrote, “It’s awesome what these guys are doing, but BYU should be embarrassed not to be backing up their commitment with a greater level of support.” As a mom who has sat through at least a couple dozen IFSP/IEP/504 meetings in my life (so far), it’s natural to want to look to the school and ask them why they aren’t doing more to accommodate Cesar.
But maybe it’s better that they haven’t.
Which scenario would you prefer if you were Cesar – living with six friends who assist him with the most personal of tasks and look out for his well-being because they love him, even though he has to drive his wheelchair four blocks to campus, or living in an assisted living and taking a university-provided bus?
I would like to see businesses, individuals, schools, government buildings (pretty much everyone) freely accommodate those with disabilities to the best of their ability. But more than that, I would like to see people with disabilities integrated fully into their communities, not through rules and regs and threats of lawsuits and public shaming, but through the loving efforts of the people who know and love them.
The future of inclusion isn’t about ramps and buses. It’s about friendship and kindness.
Cesar’s friends are currently trying to raise enough money to acquire a van adapted for his wheelchair. Learn more or donate to their cause here.