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Lost In A Desert World

Creator: Roland Johnson (author)
Date: 1994
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Somehow, I don't know, I convinced him he had to come to the Montgomery County ARC meeting. I told him, "This is something special." So he came. I got a reward and he heard me giving a good speech about employers hiring people with disabilities. And he was amazed about it. He says, "Gee. I had a good time at the banquet." He never been to anything like that. And he said that he would hire some people with disability. That was good. He said that I showed him that they could work as hard as anybody else had.


After when I came to be president, the first time I travel anywhere to speak it was Erie. They wanted to hear about Speaking for Ourselves -- "How we can get a chapter started out there in Erie Pennsylvania?" So we went and spoke to them. We had to travel on a big plane and then we gotta go on the little plane. And I said the same thing: "How you could get a chapter started is you gotta find a founder, somebody like Luann, that is really want to dedicate themselves to being a founder." They would ax me how was I when I was a child; "How did you get active in Speaking for Ourselves?" and "What made you be part of Speaking for Ourselves?" And I told 'em that Speaking for Ourselves gave me a different outlook, appearance, in life. Yeah, we talked how do they get their people's rights and stuff like that.


I been to Canada. First time I met Bill Worrell and Patrick Worth -the advisor and one of the founders of People First of Canada -- K.W.- they axed me to come out there.


When we went to Boston, I figured that I could travel by myself and learn to see the world, because I like to see little towns riding on the train and see what they look like, different cities and the different towns. It helped me to not be a-scared that there's nobody gonna be with me to show me how to get around. And it just. . .It was a miracle. A miracle happened. Here I am -- travelling by myself! And I can do it! I'm thinking about the other people driving on the van. This is one handicapped person less on the van. I was not afraid. I remember the train conductor told me the stop was the last stop you get off and there you are. I had somebody waiting and she picked me up at the train station with my baggage and stuff and drove me to the hotel.


Experiment. Yeah. I had a lot of experiments to run.


When they axed me to Interserv -a multi-state conference -- K.W.- in Princeton, I was thinking so much, "What is going to come out of this -- all these disabled people. I'm disabled. What do they see in me? What would they see in Steve? -Steve Dorsey, a Speaking For Ourselves Board member -- K.W.- What is this all about?" I was kind of frightened about that. What do they see in us with disabled? What's this all toward? What it boils down to? And it was very, very hard to put the pieces together. It was like a puzzle.


I just thought, "Well, everybody here has a disability; I'm just like anybody else. My disability doesn't hurt anybody, because I'm a slow learner."


Then it was fun to watch, to see what was coming out of that conference. It was just people that had disabled, that they had something on their minds to tell people; they had something to say.


Speaking For Ourselves did an interview project at the arc Rainbow at the workshop. We went in there as a paid consultant. We axed the clients did they like it in the workshop. Some said they did not like it in the workshop.


The person that I interviewed said, "Gee, I could fill out them questionaires."


I said, "Well that's what I'm here for, to help to fill out the questionaires. You can ax me the questions and I'll ax you the questions -- what's on the questionaire."


So I axed him, "Do you think that you would like being in the workshop?"


And he said No, he want a real job.


I think that Denver was the very first time that I flew to any of the professionals' conferences and back. Didn't bother me at all. Meeting all these people after we got off the plane. . .Picked up a rent-a-car and then we went and checked in to our rooms. The next day it felt like that there wasn't no other disabled person here and we're the only disabled person here and fifty thousand TASH -The Association for People With Severe Handicaps -- K.W.- professionals. It feeled like I didn't belong there. I felt like I didn't need to be there. It feel like that, "Gee, what do I have to talk about? What's on my mind to talk about in front of all these people?"


And it just came out: about make sure people getting their rights. We talked about how people with disabilities have different types of disabilities, about how we could make changes. Didn't worry me at all. Nothing worried me. I thought me and Steve brought out good questions and good answers. I think that me and Steve worked hand in hand too.


We went to Oregon and we spoke there how to get the chapters started. We was giving them advice. They was just starting to think about it -- making things happen out there in Oregon. They axed us how did Speaking For Ourselves get started. We told them that Luann Carter was the founder and we had started out small and it grew and it developed a chapter in every county and been successful.

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