By Paul Miller, Community Inclusion Specialist, MDRC
Independence is something we strive for as we grow up, but as an adult I have grown to understand that interdependence is a more accurate view of life. Interdependence is a concept explained best by saying that our independence relies on the help of others. My Dad passed away in January 2019 and when I think about him I think what a big part of my life he was. My dad loved to work with tools. He did a lot of work on my walker. He put on a cupholder and added some new wheels and a hinge. I use my walker to go all over town. I think of it as a symbol of independence. When I ride on the bus I fold it and have it against my legs. When I get to the store, I put a small grocery basket on it and shop. My walker, like any Assistive Technology, is a big part of my life. It is also a symbol of the relationship I had with my dad. While ridesharing is possible now, up until a few years ago, when I had an emergency with my walker, I called my dad for a ride.
The concept of interdependence is that no one is totally independent. Our independence depends on the help of others. This is a concept that is well understood in the disability community. The opening paragraph tells how my dad helped with my walker, which helped me be independent as well as helping me to bond with my dad. Last time I got some work done on my walker I got some help from a nice man in my church named Phil. When this happened I felt connected with my church. You also can get some work done on walkers at bike shops. At one time I did get some brake work done to my walker at a bike shop. I think the reason why interdependence is so loved in the disability community is it builds connections with other communities. It could also build up the disabled community itself since we help each other by talking about news and protests and opportunities in the disability community.
You have interdependence in any relationship like friendship or a work relationship. While working on this blog I got advice and grammar help from Paige, my personal assistant. This is an example of interdependence at work. Another example may be help with a presentation. The story I told about my walker is one example of how interdependence works. I don’t want to say independence is a negative concept. Independence may be what we say we want when we are young but interdependence, as a viewpoint, gives us community.