I’m all for a good news story.

Trust me I have been using every search engine, meta tag, and google alert I use to find one. Unfortunately this story (even if this sounds like one on first blush) IT IS NOT.

Part of being a writer, advocate and human rights supporter, is being able to suss out what LOOKS good from what IS good.

Thus today I bring you the story of a fabled, and beloved football player whose idea of supporting the community of people with disabilities is to build (yet another) segregated, non-inclusive building where people with disabilities can languish while they learn the skills which will ultimately make them less disabled and easier to include.

According to the Phinsider, (a sports news outlet) Dan Marino and his foundation have plans to open a special needs college of sorts.

Marino’s son Michael was diagnosed with Autism when he was two years old. Since that time the Marino Foundation has focused on raising money to support worthwhile disability services and supports.

This is where the wheels fall off.

“The college would be located on the 400 block of North Andrews Avenue, and would utilize nearby apartments for students. The enrollment would cater to students from age 18 to 28, all of whom are diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Down syndrome, or other developmental disabilities. The school is aiming to open in the fall of 2013, with a student body of around 60 for the first semester. The school anticipates an annual tuition of around $7500 for the two-year program, and would be divided into trimesters.”

Let me see if I understand. This foundation aspires to build a segregated school where young men and women (who have already spent up to 17 years in the school system) can both live and be educated until they reach 28 years within a “college-like” setting exclusively with other people with disabilities.

Okay I’m going to have to throw a flag on this particular play.

Here’s an idea Mr. Marino, why not spend some of the foundations resources on enhancing the programatic supports that exist at lots of different University and College campuses, legitimate educational institutions that recognize how much richer their academic and campus life are because the inclusion of students with disabilities.

This is one more example on how we seem to continue to be bound and determined to delay and deny the inclusion of citizens into into real community.
I’m sure this facility will look like a college, and function like a school. But scratch the service and I’ll bet dollars to footballs that you will find “can stacking” and “life skills”, on the curriculum.

Please Mr. Marino, don’t open another segregated, day program, and residence. Dream bigger for your son and all of our sons and daughters.

Invest in what gives people with disabilities a REAL LIFE, that being access and supports to have a REAL LIFE, in our community, schools, and workplaces.

Harder to put a plaque on definitely, but abundantly more meaningful.