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The Power of Disability


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From a longtime disability rights activist comes this moving window into the lives of people with disabilities and the lessons they can teach us.

About the Author

Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur, author, and parent to a daughter, Liz, who experiences Down syndrome. He is a founding partner of Social Innovation Generation and BC Partners for Social Impact. As cofounder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network he proposed and led the campaign to establish the world's only disability savings plan--the RDSP. Etmanski is an Ashoka fellow and a faculty member of John McKnight's Asset-Based Community Development Institute. He was recently awarded the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia.


"Al Etmanski upends the usual self-help formula, as well, but he does so by telling the stories of a largely 'untapped and underappreciated source, people in the disability community.' Etmanski--a disability activist, community organizer, social entrepreneur, and author--explains early on that his new book isn't really about disability, but about life. And he has found that the disability community and movement that welcomed him after he welcomed a daughter with down syndrome into the world offered some of life's best lessons. He believes that:

The time has come to recognize people with disabilities for who they really are: authoritative sources on creativity, resilience, love, resistance, dealing with adversity, and living a good life. This book does that. In sharing the stories of an incredibly diverse set of individuals, he shows how independence is only possible through our interdependence, how unity comes from embracing our differences, how opportunity is extended through a nurturing environment and expanded justice. He also tells stories of how opportunity, inventiveness, ingenuity, and clarity can arise out of adversity--while never glossing over the struggles that people face or the need to address them more collectively and more fully as a society. Perhaps it won't surprise you that two of our most transformational presidents, individuals who led the nation through some of its most challenging chapters, were individuals with a disability--Lincoln with clinical depression and FDR with polio. The 'advantages that people with disability offer, ' Etmanski writes, 'are the perfect remedy for the troubled times we live in, ' and after what I've read so far, I couldn't agree more."
--Dylan Schleicher, Porchlight Book Company "Hopefully the universal lessons in this book will not only empower all of us to trampoline to our highest potential but also move the global disability rights movement to achieve the success it fully deserves--so we can all live in a more just and equitable world."
--Susan Sygall, disability activist and MacArthur Fellow "Etmanski engages every reader, whether new to the world of disability or an old hand, with thoughtful insights on the value of difference. This book made me laugh, made me cry, made me proud."
--Yazmine Laroche, former Chair, Muscular Dystrophy Canada "Etmanski mines rich wisdom from the disability world and makes it accessible to a general audience. In a world increasingly divided and polarized, this book will unite, while changing the perception of disability from illness needing only charity to a normal human condition needing only opportunity."
--Carol Glazer, President, National Organization on Disability "In a world defined by accelerating change and interconnection, those who recognize their differences and give themselves permission to make a difference have a powerful advantage. The stories in this book illustrate how people with disabilities are seizing their power. They will help all of us see and seize ours."
--Bill Drayton, CEO, Ashoka

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