My dog, Toby, with his annoying little brother, Timmy. Photo description: 2 small white dogs with Santa hats on.
It’s been a little over a year since we moved into Able Community’s house, and like most things, nothing comes easy for me. We found a great ranch house with sweet neighbors in a good location, but I am still struggling to find enough personal care assistants. Although we have a waiting list for residents with physical disabilities needing care, we cannot invite them without finding enough care for everyone.
Me with my Buckley-Shaklee friends. Photo description: 3 women pose in front of Able Community’s red brick house; 2 are standing behind a woman in a power chair.
However, in the spirit of Able Community’s mission—“redefining independence through self-directed personal care, employment, and community by building affordable co-housing for people with and without disabilities,” we are eagerly awaiting our first resident with an intellectual disability who’ll move in next week! To find out more about Able Community, visit www.ablecommunitychicago.org.
Able Community’s house warming party. Photo description: friends and neighbors with and without disabilities pose for a group photo in a living room.
I never imagined Able Community’s house to be in Arlington Heights—where I grew up and my parents still live—because we planned for Able Community to be in Chicago. But as we looked for our starter house, we found that the suburbs provided more for our budget.
And yes, for those law nerds, Arlington Heights is in the Constitutional Law books as being racist for not allowing low-income housing. Ironically, as a kid, I was proud of Arlington Heights because of its diversity of housing sizes and was in denial when I learned of the case, that that Arlington Heights could be my Arlington Heights.
I unknowingly live in places that were part of big Constitutional cases. When I told a local Civil Rights Law Professor this (leave it to me to go to office hours long after I have graduated), he wanted to know where else I lived. In Skokie, where my family lived for the first ten years of my life, there was an ACLU case protecting Nazis’ First Amendment right to parade. Davis, CA, is also on the books for overturning affirmative action precedent in a case a white male student brought for not getting into the UCD Med School.
Hopefully, I didn’t bore my non-law nerd friends too much (one would probably see a town opting not to build low-income housing as harmless and a Nazi parade as something to stop, but it’s the other way around from legal perspectives). And my law nerd friends will be glad to know that Arlington Heights now has affordable low-income housing developments.
What co-op would be complete without a compost heap? So, I started one—much to my family’s dismay. I thought I had a 50/50 chance of compost success, but my sister gives it 70/30—70% chance it won’t work! We’ll see in a few months. I also started growing our first Venus flytrap, dubbing him King Henry Frankenweenie. He did eat a few flies for us and is currently hibernating.
Photo description: a Venus flytrap in a flower pot.
When I’m not composting, I have been able to write poetry again, which comes harder with age, especially after my law school/California writer’s block. Whether it’s any good is another question, but I’m glad to be writing again.
I also attended my elementary school music teacher’s retirement encore concert. Mr. V was quite something, writing his own musicals with original music, and giving each student lines in them, including students with speech impediments. As a kid from Skokie (a lower middle-class area) attending school in Northbrook (an upper middle-class area), I often felt out of place. But I never felt out of place in Mr. V’s class or musicals. I think it’s clear where my love of musicals and treating everyone equally may stem from…
Me and Mr. V. Photo description: woman in a power chair posing with a man in a Hawaiian shirt.
Me and Ms. Stevens. my art teacher, who probably was instrumental in my wanting to be an artist as a kid. Photo description: woman in a power chair smiling with a woman.
I enjoy keeping in touch with former teachers, especially those I didn’t butt heads with too much, as I do most people. No, I was never the teacher’s pet, except maybe in 7th grade Spanish. I laugh at anyone who thinks otherwise, as the student who made a new way to kill a teddy bear keychain effigy of my high school Resource Teacher each week (my favorite, the guillotine). Bob, I meant to ship that teddy bear keychain effigy to you in pieces, but my college coursework got the better of me.
Bob has been an Able Community supporter from the get-go, making monthly donations. On his visit to Able Community’s house, he revealed that my home high school never wanted me. My reaction? ‘I thought you knew I was smart’—a nicer way to say, No s#@&! I actually saw making me attend an out-of-district high school because of my disability analogous to segregated schools and wanted to sue my home high school. (Note: a lot of people, including attorneys, would disagree with this.) Education for students with disabilities should consider the individual student for the most appropriate educational setting, but often is an all-or-nothing deal.
Me and my high school Resource Teacher, “don’t say my name backwards” boB Carroll. Photo description: a goofy looking man is leaning on a woman in a power chair.
I know I shouldn’t have taken it out on Bob, but I never saw or heard from the superintendent I wrote to to convince that I should go to my home high school. Besides, Bob mostly deserved it… making me enter a banana eating contest and so on. I do hold most of my former teachers in high regard for helping shape who I am today.
I always pinpointed my wanting to pursue a legal career to an 8th grade unit on the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping and what seemed to be an unfair trial that ensued afterwards. However, I just watched a documentary series, O.J.: Made In America, which made me realize how much impact watching the O.J. trial (also in middle school) had on me. Randomly, I experienced both in Arlington Heights.
Me and Orion, my middle school friend. Photo description: a person with a buzzed haircut kneels next to a woman in a power chair.
On my last legal note, I was honored to have co-written Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications: A Guide for Housing Professionals with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and Access Living attorneys. This Guidebook (accessible PDF linked here) provides general legal guidance to housing professionals on reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications for residents with disabilities and their family members. Please share the equal housing love.
Launching the Guidebook at John Marshall Law School. Photo description: a panel of attorneys in suits sit in the judges’ area of a courtroom class.
This is a long way of saying Happy Holidays and drop me a line when you can!