As he continues rehabilitative therapy after a stroke, District of Columbia Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), and the D.C. Council have been afforded a teachable moment in how to uplift those navigating life with different abilities.
The Washington Informer reported in a Jan. 4 article, that Gray, who formerly served as mayor and council chairman, didn’t like Chairman Phil Mendelson’s decision to strip him of his Committee on Health chairmanship. He was assigned to a new committee with less power: the Committee on Hospitals and Health Equity.
Despite reported concerns of his inability to effectively lead the health committee, Gray, 80, has maintained that his cognitive skills nor his ability to serve have been affected by the stroke.
“Nearly one-third of stroke survivors experience challenges with communication, but not intellect,” Gray said, noting recovery is a slow process that can extend for months or years. “People recovering from strokes or experiencing other health challenges are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. As chair of the newly formed Committee on Hospital and Health Equity, I will explore whether we have done enough in the District to codify and protect these rights,” said Gray.
In continuing to do the work, Gray (even to his chagrin with the demoted position) and the council have the ability to show the nation’s capital, and by extension, the world, how institutions and systems can effectively empower those with different abilities in positions of power.
As he continues speech therapy, Gray is opting on making statements and conducting interviews through email and, in person, through a staff person to read his remarks.
In accommodating Gray, the council can learn effective ways of empowering those with special needs to lead and legislate in different ways. While acknowledging Gray’s reported eight-hour workday limitation, perhaps the council can find better ways to cover more ground in less time. In watching how the eldest council member newly navigates life, they can be educated on how to get work done by any means necessary.
Further, the Ward 7 council member is sending a message to the world about overcoming obstacles. Despite demotion and health challenges, Gray continues to serve, taking on peers and haters alike, doubting his abilities. Gray’s continued service is a lesson in the power of perseverance.