Tuesday, June 16, 2009


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.


rickismom said...


Thank G-d for good staff!

Heike Fabig said...

How low can some people get? This is quite shocking.
Dave, if ever you doubted if your work is vital, here you have it. It doesn't bare thinkig about what might have happened....

Anonymous said...

Dave I am a Vita staff and I want you to know that when you first came to Vita I hated what you were doing. I disagreed with us staff calling the police and I thought that you were beyond silly in what you were doing. I need to admit that I was wrong. Vita is like a company that has grown up. I've always like my job here but now I'm proud to be here. So I was wrong about you.

CJ said...

This is really awful. It scares me.

I'm so glad for that staff person.

FridaWrites said...

Dave, that staff member should truly be commended for thinking and not being distracted--he or she could have saved that person's life! I will bet her family is very thankful. Systemized checking often fails but not when there are thinking people!

My son at age 6 (he has autism) was placed on the wrong, early bus and had to wait outside our home for an hour and a half. o neighbors were home. I am still mad about it, almost three years later. And it still scares me to think about it. We had a guy who had repeatedly tried to pick up little boys in our neighborhood that time of day a few months before and my kids weren't even allowed out without us. Multiple people failed their jobs that day--the teacher, the extended day teacher, the bus checker, the bus driver, all of whom had their lists and check boxes and knew he easily got lost.

Brian said...

Now, more than ever I see the importance of Abuse Prevention. It would have been so easy for that staff to just say, "All right, off you go." But they didn't. They stopped, thought about, and followed the insticts they had been taught to hear. Sometimes that little voice has a lot of competition in the hectic day, and it may get drowned out if we aren't careful to take a moment to be in the moment. Thank you David - our time with you in Butler was phenomenal - again - and I can't wait to come see you and Joe on your home turf. Enjoy your couch - and Happy 1002nd blog post!! Cheers!!

Karyn said...

Dave, did you see the article in the seattle area about the school aide that was arrested for sexual abuse of a girl with a cognitive disability.
The real story is that the reporter of the abuse was a 15 year old boy who is also "mentally challenged" according to the article. Someone taught him well.

Karyn said...


Sorry, that was a partial URL in the last post

Anonymous said...

In my head all I can hear is the same comment rickismom left. In my email I have informed all of our support staff!


Anonymous said...

This is the best evidence of a socially responsible blog post. Using this medium as a way of informing others of risks or dangers. I have sent to all our locations in my State. Thank you and thank Vita for alerting us.


Andrea S. said...

Karyn, can you run that URL through http://tinyurl.com ? That would turn it into a shorter URL that wouldn't run off the side of the page


Karyn said...

thank you Andrea S. Here it is

RusW said...

Wow! Great post Dave. I echo the previous comment " best evidence of a socially responsible blog post". My sons school at dismissal time is a real confused place at the transporattion pickup area. Multiple buses from different school districts, paratransit, parents, cabs... This post is getting shared with the school administration as well as the management at my agency. I just tweeted it too.
Thank you so much Dave.

Andrea S. said...

Thanks, Karyn!

Anonymous said...

Well said Dave and Much Blessing from The Lord to that staff who saved a life and may you continue to do so...Mahalia