When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we only heard one side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis the little green skinned girl named Elphaba, an outcast? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And more importantly… what is the true nature of evil?
Who? What? When? Where? Why? Those same questions were raised in regard to iBudgets and MedWaiver services during health care committees on both the House and Senate side of Florida’s Legislature the week of February 23rd. Who qualifies for MedWaiver? What services and “natural supports” exist in the community? When did the demand for community services “spike”, feeding a wait list of more than 21,000 consumers? Where did all of these people get services before? Why can they not access those same services now?
Regrettably, the history of disability services in the state of Florida, and our nation as a whole, is not a proud one. People with developmental disabilities have never been an embraced segment of society. From the late 1860s until the 1970s, there were actual “ugly laws” making it illegal for persons with “unsightly or disgusting” disabilities to appear in public. People with disabilities were forced to enter institutions and asylums, where most spent their entire lives. The “purification” and segregation of persons with disability were considered merciful actions, but ultimately only served to keep people with disabilities invisible and hidden from a fearful and biased society.
Following in the path of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1960’s, disability rights activists lobbied Congress and marched on Washington to include civil rights language for people with disabilities into the 1972 Rehabilitation Act. Since that time, tremendous strides were made in the 1990’s with the passage of the Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.) Then on June 22, 1999, a Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v L.C. gave people with significant disabilities the right to live in local communities and to have more control over the services they received.
Scarcely a decade past that monumental milestone and now Floridians with developmental disabilities are faced with the reality that they may no longer have control over the services they receive, or a choice about whom should provide that service, nor any voice on where or with whom they should live. In a word…. Devastating.
As fans of the Broadway Musical Wicked know, the true face of evil is not that of the unsightly outcast. It is the face of willful ignorance. The one lacking moral reflection which is often masked by beguiling charm and condescending wit befitting the “Good Witch” Galinda herself.