Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jim Abbott says people with disabilities need to be given opportunities

From MLB.com when Jim Abbott, an Olympian and major league baseball player who was born without a right hand, spoke at the Little League World Series:

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Jim Abbott brought a message to the Little League World Series that he urged people to heed.

Abbott's message wasn't a slogan or political statement. His message served as a simple reminder to American employers that a disability wasn't a liability.

He's Exhibit A for that message.

"I was lucky that my talents were on the baseball field," said Abbott, the former Olympian who pitched for 10 seasons in the Major Leagues. "But there may be people with talents in other areas."

It is that message Abbott, born without a right hand, is bringing to more places than Williamsport. In partnership with Major League Baseball and the U.S. Department of Labor, Abbott is helping to spread that message through a campaign called Proving Individuals with Talent Can Help or PITCH.

According Labor Department statistics, two-thirds of the 50 million disabled Americans, a deep pool of untapped talent, are jobless. Those men and women face obstacles in trying to prove to employers their disability doesn't limit them, Abbott said.

He can tell any boss who's open to listening to look at what he accomplished. From Flint, Mich., to a long career in the big leagues, Abbott succeeded in the face of challenges that might have forced lesser people to relent.

What helped Abbott to succeed was the strong support system behind him. It all began with his father, who didn't let his son dwell on what he couldn't do. His son could do whatever he set his mind to.

Baseball coaches proved willing to give Abbott an opportunity.

"What's special about baseball is the inclusiveness of it," he said shortly before he went out to throw a ceremonial first pitch at the World Series. "If you can do it, the opportunity will be there."