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photo of Tamar Davis standing next to Senator Tom Harkin

Until We Experience Disability Ourselves

by Tamar Davis, CEO, Gateways

“And if most of us don’t grasp disability until we experience it ourselves or through loved ones, society is not going to change.”

I read this quote in a Boston Globe article that came out this week, entitled “Disability should not mean invisibility,” and was reminded yet again of how even though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law over 30 years ago, and we have made progress since, there is still so much more that needs to be done.

I attended an event a few years ago to hear now former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin speak about his experience first introducing the ADA in the Senate in 1989, which he had authored and of which he was the chief Senate sponsor. Senator Harkin was motivated in large part to create this law because his own brother was deaf. I am so grateful to Senator Harkin for his work on this pivotal law that fundamentally changed our societal norms around disability accessibility and inclusion. And yet, if it weren’t for Senator Harkin’s brother, would the ADA have come about?

I’m convinced the answer is yes, because there would have been someone else to come along who had experienced disability themselves or through loved ones. But change shouldn’t have to wait for that moment. Here’s a different quote from a much older text: “כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה” – “All of Israel is responsible for one another” (Talmud Shavuot 39a). We shouldn’t wait until we experience inequity or discrimination ourselves to know that reform is needed. Rather, it is incumbent upon all of us to change our culture, to create communities of belonging, and to ensure that every person can discover the joy of Jewish learning.

Thank you for being part of the Gateways community. And I hope you’ll read the Globe article and share what quote caught your eye in particular.

Shabbat shalom,

Signature of Tamar Davis

Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer