In many ways, Dayniah's story is a reality check on the status of individual rights in America. Her ability to succeed in New York is a testimony to the success of the civil rights, women's rights and disability rights movements. Yet it is also a story of how far we still have to go. Dayniah's story is one of prejudice still alive, seen as she battles the entrenched bureaucracy of the New York City school system while it tries to deny her the accommodations needed to do her job and advance her career. It is a battle which, almost miraculously, has enlisted such diverse persons as philanthropists, private lawyers and employees of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This part of her story challenges us to test the myth of American society as a meritocracy blind to color, sex, and disability.

Even more, Dayniah's story is one of how a unique spirit can touch other lives. It is how her beauty, spirit and energy in a life which has been brutal, stark, intense and painful have touched many others. Finally, Dayniah's story is of the love of mothers and daughters: It is the love of a mother who sacrificed much to immigrate to America to seek care for her disabled teenaged daughter. It is that daughter's love for her mother that motivated the daughter to succeed despite her enormous obstacles. It is Dayniah's love and how she shares that with her own daughter.

All in all, Dayniah's is a story of grace, courage and humility. It is a story that shows some of the better angels of human kindness contrasted with the devils of prejudice, ignorance, and insensitivity. It is a story which can direct policy makers to some of the issues that still need to be addressed in our society. It is a story of uplifting triumph tinged with potential tragedy. It is a story which will be a testament for Dayniah's daughter after she is gone while inspiring many who will never know her by any other means. It is a story that needs to be told.

Roberta F. Shapiro, D.O., FAAPM&R


© 2008 The Dayniah Fund, Inc.