Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Monday With Essex

It's been a while since I've done one but I was more excited than anxious. As I travel I do primarily workshops for staff and parents but occasionally I am asked to do one for people with disabilities. I am here in Windsor doing two days training for those associated with the Essex Association for Community Living. As they were, perhaps, the second agency in Canada to have people with disabilities in care write a 'Bill of Rights' for service, I wasn't surprised to see that over the two days I would be doing an hour long presentation to self advocates on each of those days.

There were perhaps 30 in the group and right off we had fun, and right off learning started flowing back and forth. I keep learning that my 'instant assessments' of people's skill levels are so off. A woman who had Down Syndrome came in looking disengaged from the environment and didn't respond when people said hello. She sat down heavily staring at the table. I, of course, saw a significant disability. I of course was wrong.

We talked a little about emotions and when we got to 'angry' she turned and said, "I'm angry that I was brought here and I didn't know why I was coming or what this was about. I was angry that my staff never bothered to tell me, didn't respect me enough to get my permission. I told my staff this morning that I was angered and my staff apologized to me, said she thought I'd been told, promised it wouldn't happen again."


Then later we began talking about rights, she was the first to say that the bill of rights needed a new one added ...

We have a right to be treated with compassion and respect by staff.


There was another fellow at the table who was listening very much to what she had been saying, "You know what you've got to tell them," he asked me.

"What?" I asked him.

"We aren't a job, we're people.'

After it was over I had to phone Nancy and let her know what had been said, the depth of the sentiment and the need to take what people were saying and really think about it.

"We aren't a job, we're people.'

Here's a challenge, over the next few days I'm going to think about that, think about what it means. I invite you to do the same.


Belinda said...

"We aren't a job, we're people."

People: with flesh and bone, nervous systems, feelings, spirits--packaged differently sometimes, but people--just like we all are.

Thank you for the "challenge of the day"--because sometimes I forget and the job takes over.

So many good things have come out of Essex. It must be a joy to be there!

Anonymous said...

It's time for the world to get to know people with disabilities might even be more interesting, special, intelligent from the academic or emotional point of view than some "normal" people.

In order to send this message through the world, which is truly a "mission", we should repeat it again and again, in different forms, tell it to anybody, and be imaginative in finding new ways. Like you do Dave.
You must be a happy man.

Anonymous said...

To the other "anonymous" above: Why should people with disabilities necessarily need to be any more interesting, special, intelligent, or anything else in order to be simply VALUED for WHO THEY ARE as PEOPLE?

Yes, I do understand what you're trying to do. But I think in the process of reaching out to non-disabled people and getting them to be more open minded about, and accepting, of people with disabilities, I think we want to be careful not to create the message that a person necessarily has to have "redeeming characteristics" to "make up for" having a "flaw" such as being disabled. Unfortunately, attempts to "talk up" the positive traits of people with disabilities, although well intended--and maybe even effective and useful in certain contexts--can sometimes end up coming across that way.

To me, speaking as a person with multiple disabilities (though intellectual disabilities happen not to be among them), a phrase like "We aren't a job, we're people" means, "We aren't just here for your convenience or so you can get a paycheck. We have our own desires and needs--and our own desires and needs are just as important or valuable to us as yours are to you. Including your desire to hurry out the door and be done with your work day. So how about listening to us and delivering the services that WE say we need--not what some pencil pusher in an office somewhere who has never actually experienced "being disabled" thinks we do?"

lina said...

We are not a job, we are people - that belongs written - everywhere
I promise to carry it with me forever!

Susan said...

Dave, that is PROFOUND. Thank you again.

And yes to Belinda's comment. "So many good things have come out of Essex".

Yeah! Like ME! :o)

Anonymous said...

Amen. Now if only the rest of the world knew that.

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping that everyone that reads this post, spreads those words.

"We aren't a job, we're people."

I'll be happy to share this story!

Anonymous said...

Joining late, I know...As a public school teacher in a classroom that includes a diverse array of students, this struck home on a variety of levels, and I think it carries a particular weight for those of us for whom the job and the people are inextricably linked. How difficult it can be to separate each individual child from the particular list of academic, behavioral, social, and emotional goals that have been established for them (and how difficult it can be to involve students in the development of those goals!), and how important it is to do just that...How frustrating it can be when you start to see your students as obstacles in the way of what you hope to accomplish that day, instead of partners in that journey...I think my students would have cheered for this woman, had they been in the room.

Nicole said...

Just getting caught up with you Dave. Lots of good stuff this month. :) It's been almost that long since I've visited. I'm babysitting a newborn full time right now, and I'm spoiling her! :) Or so her parents say.

Anyhow....I will use this! I love it and think I may get a shirt made with this on it. Thanks for sharing!