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Remembering Helen Keller's advocacy for those with disabilities

We all love stories about overcoming adversity. We not only cheer for the underdog, we are inspired by what he or she was able to accomplish with hard work and determination. Later this month, America will celebrate the life of one of these inspirational underdogs: Helen Keller.

Ms. Keller lived at a time when individuals suffering from disabilities had almost no public accommodations or sources of support other than their families. Despite going blind and deaf shortly after her birth, Helen Keller learned to communicate and eventually achieved a college education. She was the first person with both blindness and deafness to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Ms. Keller then spent the rest of her life as an advocate for those with disabilities.

Although Helen Keller died in 1968, she was honored by President Jimmy Carter in June of 1980. June 27th has been commemorated as Helen Keller Day. The date in 1980 also would have been her 100th birthday.

In a recent news article, a man named Ray Vigil noted that if she were alive today, Helen Keller would have been appreciative of programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. It is worth noting that Mr. Vigil is a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, so he may be somewhat biased. Nonetheless, his point is a good one.

SSDI and SSI have helped millions of Americans who either become unable to work as the result of a disability or who have basically never been able to work due to lifelong disability. The first goal of both programs is to make sure that disability does not result in abject poverty.

Hopefully, the stories of Helen Keller and other disability advocates will continue to remind us that even though it is okay to ask for help, much is possible with hard work and determination.

Source: Las Cruces Sun-News, "Social Security: Helen Keller would appreciate Social Security's efforts," Ray Vigil, June 9, 2014

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