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Whether one agrees with President Biden’s policies or not, his inauguration ceremony has already broken down a barrier that many don’t pay attention to until they are face to face with it. I’m talking about those of us who deal with speech difficulties. Sometimes it takes a little more time to listen to someone trying to communicate with a speech pattern that is not the typical, and many just don’t have the patience to try to listen or understand. Sometimes they are nervous that if they can’t understand, that it will be awkward and embarrassing for the individual who is trying to communicate, so it’s better to just walk away like you didn’t see the person. Or, even worse, the excuse of, “What they had to say probably wasn’t that important anyway.” To be in a crowd of people where no one will take the time to listen to you, is the most isolating experience I know.

The brilliant young, black woman U.S. poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, reciting her well-crafted poem “The Hill We Climb” was the highlight of the ceremony for me. Upon learning that, until a year ago, she dealt with speech difficulties, made her achievements even more magnificent. Not everyone can master their speech difficulties as Gorman has. Oh, that hill was not easy for her to climb. It took much work, practice and persistence to climb up and out, but she did it and deserves the accolades for it. However, there will always be the “Brayden Harrington’s” of the world. Brayden is President Biden’s young friend who has a significant stutter. Brayden might improve with practice, but allowing him to speak at the ceremony said he should not have to wait until he’s “better” to speak, we need to listen to him now. Why? To give him, and everyone else, the confidence that their voices count, and will be equally listened to.

What orchestrated such a difference in including people with all types of disabilities in the ceremony, including actress and wheelchair user Kiera Allen, seen singing alongside others? It just might be because we have a President who has a stutter, better now, but still deals with the remnants of his stutter. It’s his personal understanding of the shame of having something to say, but so easily ignored and isolated to a corner of a room filled with conversing people, where you are only permitted to listen.

Written by Renee Wood
The Ability Center Board Member

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The Ability Center

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Sylvania, OH 43560