Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We gather to celebrate independence, community inclusion and the protection of disability rights. With members of all ages, races and nations; this is our day.

This morning, my caregiver came into my house, helped me clean up, dress, eat my breakfast and get ready for the day. It’s a usual routine for me and a routine I share with thousands of Montanans and millions of Americans who use homecare supports. Our independence and success is tied to these services being available, planned specifically for each of us, and keeping us healthy at home and not in nursing homes. For me, this assistance allows me to fulfill the promise of the ADA.

I’m happy to work for a company that provides homecare supports. The Consumer Direct Care Network offers these services in 12 states and has been in Montana since 1990. The services under the Care Network varies from counseling services for children and families provided by Full Circle, to traditional caregiving supports provided by Nightingale, to self-directed caregiving supports provided by Consumer Direct, to short-term recovering services provided by Home Health of Montana. These companies — Full Circle, Nightingale, Consumer Direct and Home Health of Montana — belong to the Care Network and provides services in Missoula. Many of the services are available across the state.

It’s important these services are designed for the person. People with disabilities want to be in control and know their best interests are being served. Person-centered planning and supporting people in their homes and communities is what we do. Being independent, pursuing goals and dreams, and living your life is what you do.

I live a fairly typical life. I go to work, pay bills and have fun at ballgames with friends and family. This is the ADA promise: fair treatment, equal access and the opportunity to live the way one wants. I’m thankful to be able to live out that promise. I’m thankful for the supports I receive along the way. Finally, I’m thankful to share my journey with you. Disability is a natural part of life. Let’s move ahead together. Happy 25th anniversary!

Darren Larson is community relations coordinator for Consumer Direct Care Network

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