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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

i have a voice

Do you have a pet peeve? I do. It's when someone uses the words "retard" or "retarded" as a so-called joke. If you ever wonder what a librarian looks like when her head is about to explode, just try it with me some time. What makes it even worse is when it flies from the mouth of a friend, from someone I consider to be an intelligent, compassionate, sensitive adult. Yet it shouldn't take a great degree of intelligence or even sensitivity to figure out that a developmental disability is no joke - should it?

Yes, my skin may be thinner than yours because I have a loved one, my oldest sister Susie, with a developmental disability. As a family, we have endured countless episodes of staring, laughter, finger-pointing, name-calling - it's a wonder we like people at all anymore. But I do like people, and I think any opportunity for the rest of us to learn what life is like for the disabled is an opportunity that should be seized. So I am delighted that DPPL is hosting an eye-opening exhibit of photography, "i have a voice," this month, November 2009. (Thanks to generous sponsorship from the Friends of the Library.)

You see, the sad thing is that, along with mindless cruelty, an awful lot of people think developmental disabilities should be looked upon with pity, even embarrassment, with the unfounded notion that people with such disabilities won't amount to anything. If you still feel that way, I'm encouraging you to get over it - today. Stop by and spend some time contemplating "i have a voice" this month or attend the reception on Saturday, November 14 at 1 PM. You'll get an intimate glimpse into the lives of 24 beautiful, interesting, bright and also exceptionally normal individuals. They also just happen to share the condition called Down syndrome. The photos were professionally shot and each is displayed with some personal information about the subject - hobbies, academic interests, dreams and goals. Bring your children to see and learn from these photographs and stories. If you love someone with a developmental disability, come and see and be inspired for the future.

"i have a voice" is the creative effort of a local organization called GiGi's Playhouse. GiGi's grew out of the desire of one mother, Nancy Gianni, to find help, support and resources when one of her own children was born with Down syndrome. It has grown from a small storefront in Hoffman Estates into five locations and there is much more to come. You can learn more about GiGi's Playhouse by visiting their Web site. I am particularly proud to call Nancy, her daughter GiGi and the whole rest of the Gianni gang my friends - they are doing extraordinary work and so many are being nurtured by that initial seed Nancy planted. While you're admiring the "i have a voice" exhibit, you can also pick up a brochure and learn more about the photos, a related book project and GiGi's Playhouse. If you attend the talk and reception on November 14, you can meet Nancy Gianni as well.

Please take some time out of your next Library visit to be warmed, encouraged, challenged, even confronted by "i have a voice" and the stories it tells. The exhibit is on the 2nd floor in the alcove behind the elevators and will be here at DPPL through November 30, 2009.

Hate the misuse of the "r" word as much as I do? Here's an organization trying to do something about it: The R Word: Change the Conversation

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