The 18th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act is the occasion.
Washington, D.C. – Tyler Greene, 18, of Waterloo, is one busy guy.
The recent West High School graduate played percussion in his school’s award-winning marching band and appeared in a local theater production. An Eagle Scout and member of the National Honor Society, he enjoys karate, music, church activities, movies, and surfing the Internet.
This fall he’ll head to Hawkeye Community College to major in public administration.
Oh, and by the way, Greene has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He also has obsessive-compulsive disorder, a nonverbal learning disorder, and anxieties.
But he refuses to let his disabilities define who he is or what he can do – a way of looking at life that brought him to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday for the 18th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
”.Ability awareness” was the theme of a DVD called “I’m Tyler – Don’t Be Surprised” that Greene, with the help of friends, made for his Eagle Scout project. It can be seen at the Web site www.ImTyler.org.
The DVD initially was distributed to all 365 school districts in Iowa. But it found fans beyond the state’s borders, with organizations in all 50 states and 18 other countries asking for copies. Some 5,000 have been sent.
Greene has received the United Church of Christ National Disabilities Ministry Award and the National Council for Exceptional Children “Yes I Can” award.
Wednesday, the DVD was shown to members of Congress invited by Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo Democrat who has known Greene since he was a baby.
“Eighteen years ago, there was a vision kids like Tyler would grow up in a world where they could do whatever they wanted to do,” Braley said. “The Americans with Disabilities Act is not just a piece of paper but something that has meaning for all of us.”
Greene told a crowd packed into a meeting room that the “ability awareness” he talks about in the DVD really wasn’t about him. “It’s about all these amazing people who practice ability awareness,” he said. There was the band director who “won’t let me off the hook,” or the Scout leader who insisted he play softball with the rest of the boys, just with Greene’s dad pushing his wheelchair around the bases.
They saw Tyler and not a disability, he said.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., an author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, arrived late to the event but still was in time to shake Greene’s hand.
The act “was a labor of love for a long time,” Harkin told Greene and his parents, Paul and Gina Greene.
But to see Greene today and his accomplishments, “it was worth the long fight,” Harkin said.
Greene said in the DVD his life would be “totally different” without those who have helped him.
“Is there someone you know who needs you to have an open mind?” he asks. “Please, make a difference.”