It was the end of a work day. There was the usual pandemonium with people getting ready to leave, taxi's and other specialized transit arriving and picking up individuals and groups. Staff were tired. Days can be long meeting one need after another, even so goodbyes are said with good humour and warmth. Into one such setting walked a woman calling to pick up one of the individuals at the day programme. The staff, though tired, became alert. Taxi drivers become recognized after a while and this was a face she didn't know.
The woman explained that she was the new driver and was there ready to pick up and go. Sensing that something was wrong the staff checked and saw that the drivers car had no logo on it, now it was time to ask for identification. The driver simply pulled out a ragged piece of paper with the individual's home address on it.
Picking up the phone the staff called the transportation company. Realizing that the call was made the 'driver' slipped out of the building and into her car. The transportation company had no idea who this driver was and indeed a few minutes later the real driver arrived. The individual then left with the right driver and arrived home safely.
This story was waiting for me when I got home on Friday in an 'all staff' email on my Vita account. I had spent much time with the folks in Butler talking about creating safe places for people with disabiliites. I spoke about how giving staff the responsibility and the power to handle allegations has made a difference. Suddenly staff know that they can act without having to get permission from all level's of management. Instead of wasting time calling for approval, the staff simply called and, as an end result, protected via vigilence a person who could be quite vulnerable.
I write this blog today to alert all who care for people with disabilities to stay alert to dangerous our suspicious situations. I'm hoping this post flys around to all day programmes and agencies who use specialized transit (particularly here in Toronto ... who knows who she may try to pick up tomorrow). If this is some kind of dangerous scam, be alert to it.
I also write this blog to acknowledge the work of one wonderful, observant, motivated staff who did the right thing right away. Staff who work directly with people with disability often do not get the respect they deserve and as a result they often are not given the power to make decisions and take action. This just shows that respect for staff can lead to safety for those with disabilities.
All hail front line staff with eyes open.
All hail policies that give power to all.
All hail a safe arrival home.