Tim GilmerIf exclusion is a state of mind, so is inclusion. Our problem as the most disrespected minority is simple, yet daunting: how to overthrow the universal misconception that the lives of people with disabilities are less valuable, and in some cases, even expendable. But how do we uproot and destroy a negative view of an entire class of people that has been entrenched in the human psyche for millennia?

The honest answer: The best we can hope for may be incremental change. Total eradication of stereotypical thinking and discrimination is unlikely. Why? Because human beings are very good at denial, compartmentalized thinking, and ignoring the other person’s plight.

So how does real change happen? When families are confronted in a personal way with the reality of disability, their point of view begins to change — from the inside out. Suddenly those closest to the newly disabled loved one are involuntarily enrolled in a crash course in Understanding Disability.

The Ruderman family went through a similar process on their way to becoming powerful and effective advocates for people with disabilities. Jay Ruderman, president of the nonprofit Ruderman Family Foundation, explains it this way: “Our first major philanthropic investment was in Jewish day sc