The 24th National Parents Meet in Jalandhar, Punjab was a potent mix of passion, gritty determination, and celebration. From across India, several hundred family members of people with developmental disabilities came together, along with their sons and daughters, to meet, plan, share, learn, and celebrate the hard-won gains they have made. As had been the case in most places, it is the coming together of the parent groups in a common voice which has formed the backbone of the advocacy movement for people with intellectual disabilities.
The disability movement is India is a smaller community than you might think, so it was no surprise for me to reconnect with people I had met at other events all across India. In this way, I had a small taste of the kinds of strong connection that these families have for each other through their long and faithful work towards creating a world where their children have access to the good things of Indian life. Governmental leaders and professionals came to speak and listen, and were respectful to parent leaders, recognizing their natural authority and their experience. Generational leadership changes within the parents association, the self-advocacy movement, and the field itself speak to the change that is in the air for India, for the many people with disability present at the gathering, and for families.
As an auspicious sign of “making it real”, which was the conference theme, a young man with disability who was present for the conference was introduced to the Pro-Chancellor of the University where the event was taking place. In the course of that very day, he was interviewed, offered, and accepted a position at the University which includes housing and full benefits. Now that speaks to the power of community networks, the importance of people with disability to be in regular life, and the potential that typical people can and will open doors to welcome people with disability when given the opportunity.