Lynda Steele, Director of Abilities United
Having been born temporarily deaf and having witnessed the deviant life of her aunt,
Director of Abilities United, Lynda Steele seems to have had a connection to those with
disabilities from the very beginning. Her first exposure to the idea of the disabled was when she
was categorized as “slow” during her primary education due to her being deaf. Afterwards she
learned about her aunt who had celebral palsy. This aunt was unique and vital to Lynda’s
upbringing as her aunt was raised to believe that despite her “disability”, she was absolutely
normal. Her family disagreed with the common public opinion that those with any sort of lacking
or problem should be shut away in institutions. Her parents treated her the same as their other
children and she began to excel. Even after she grew up, she denied the existence of any sort of
disability and was encouraged by her complete family to do so.
The way she was treated when considered disabled as well as her hearing the story of her
aunt who managed to overcome her own “disability” with the support of her family, caused
Lynda to grow up with compassion and openness towards everyone. She felt her calling was in
social services and moved to England as a student observer of Institutions. Witnessing the
horrendous and awful institutions and practices in them caused Lynda to be scarred so deeply
that she was unable to return to work for almost two weeks. Afterwards she saw how doctors
treated the patients cruelly, almost like animals under the pretense of performing medical
treatments. From then on, she was firmly convinced that she was opposed to such institutions. To
her sheer joy, she was headhunted a few years later to close down institutions in England. She
spent five satisfactory years finishing off all those that she detested.
While she lived in California, Lynda worked with families with disabled children. She
became the coordinator of the department of disabilities in San Mateo county and advocated the
idea of special services for those with disabilities. She helped get grants to develop residential
areas for such people. Although at the time these programs were seen to help, they soon gave
way to the idea of people with disabilities being naturally integrated into society. Instead of
group homes so that they can attain support from one another and live comfortable lives, they
were encouraged to become independent. The role of social services for this plan was to change
public perception of people with disabilities and also teach those with them the living skills
needed in order for them to live on their own. A plan that Lynda wholeheartedly approved of.
With the same plan, Abilities United was created. It had the belief system that people
with disabilities should be out in the community as opposed to shut away and hidden. This idea
fit Lynda’s personal belief system quite well. She knew that she couldn’t change the whole
world but that with the help of the organization, she could make a small but lasting difference.
Abilities United was unique in the sense that it had programs that were more individualized;
there were developed packages and services for those with disabilities in order to adapt to
individual needs. It was seen to have a developed staff and volunteer group who were just about
completely client oriented and mission focus; a setting which was perfect for Lynda.