In 1996, on the heels of my first book, "Interdependence: The Route to Community" (CRC Press, 1991), I published my second book, "Beyond Difference" (CRC Press, 1996). This effort was a more personal follow-up to "Interdependence," and allowed me to ponder the impact of difference in our lives and in our communities.
The overall thesis of this work, and of "Interdependence" before it, was that the key to rehabilitation is not to change or fix difference, but to promote that community (or culture) get beyond the polarizing effects of difference. It is more of a macro perspective to change, rather than the still common "micro" actions of dealing with the difference. In a way it introduced the notion that if you can not fix or change the difference that seems to be the problem, how might the world around us change to accept the difference?
For the work we do at CLASS (www.classcommunity.org) this macro perspective sheds a new light. Most of the people we support have disabilities (or differences) that can not be fixed, no matter how hard we might try. They are who they are. So how do we support these same people to become members of their communities? Do they need to change - or should the change occur with everyday people around them? In other words, how do we help typical people in community get beyond the difference they see with disabilities?
In honor of the 20th anniversary of "Beyond Difference," I have been re-reading this book. This effort has both saddened - and emboldened me. Sad in that it has been 20 years, a full generation, since its publication, and we (our communities) have still polarized people with disabilities and other differences. On the positive side, however, I am more emboldened to continue the macro effort to promote culture change. It is not our differences that divide us, but the judgments we hold about these differences that do!
So if you are so inclined, and this seems of interest to you, track down this book. You can easily find some used editions for as little as 3 or 4 dollars on Amazon. Just go to www.amazon.com and type my name in the search bar. If you do, and get a chance to read "Beyond Difference" let me know what you think.