It's a standard part of the presentation. The audience was made up of people with disabilities from Kamloops although some had come from 100-mile-house a town a couple hours away. Today we were doing two different workshops, abuse prevention in the morning and understanding rights in the afternoon. During that workshop every person gets to answer the question 'who would you talk to if you had uncomfortable feelings'.
I like this part of the workshop because Joe takes over and he and one of the participants goes around and asks the question of everyone. As Joe and his assistant went around asking, I was hit by a memory. I've done work for the Kamloops Society for Community Living several times over the years and this was one of the first places I ever did the abuse prevention workshops for people with disabilities.
Looking around I could easily identify four or five people with disabilities who I knew were there in the early days of my attempting this training. They'd aged. I'd aged. Yet here we were all going through this again. It was a nice memory and a nice feeling. But then a word caught my ear ..."
"I think I'd talk to one of my kids."
This was followed by ...
"I think I'd talk to my husband."
"My best friend."
One woman paused, thoughtfully giving the question due consideration. She lifted her hands and started counting off on her fingers, "I could talk to my mother, or my best friend, or my boyfriend, or my sister ..." and on she went. She used up almost every finger making the list of those she could talk to. Wow.
By the time they were done the question, "Who would you talk to if you had an uncomfortable feeling?" was answered with the word, "staff or helper" only twice. Forty people and only twice did care providers come up as an answer. This is a shocking changed. I talked with Deb Steele afterwards and asked if she noticed the list of people who were given as possible 'helpers' should life go wrong. I asked if she noticed how 'normal' that list was. I asked if she remembered the day when 'staff' was the only answer given.
The fact that staff were not given as a first choice is not a condemnation of service provision at all. It doesn't mean that staff aren't doing their job. It means that staff are FINALLY doing their job. Facilitating relationships, building networks, developing connections - who rah - these were people with disabilities who had lives deeply imbedded in the community.
It seems feeble to only be able to offer a bit of praise ... 'good job all' but it's all I have to give that's meaningful.
GOOD JOB! WELL DONE!