During the training today I told a story that I've told a thousand times before. The story is aimed at getting people to think about privacy and about how we need to practice privacy. It's about being at an IPP (as they are called in those days) meeting and sitting with other professionals discussing the hygiene routines of a young woman, also present at the meeting. Before I could finish one of the people in the audience spoke up and asked why I hadn't done something then, why I hadn't spoken up. It's a great question and one that I'd never been asked before.
This story took place over 20 years ago and it was important for me to reflect back. As we all do, I have learned as I've gotten older. There are several things which are painfully obvious to me now but were completely obscure to me when I was younger. The older I get the less I know. However, the older I get the stuff I do know is somehow more important. Like - the meaning of respect. I didn't do anything then because I didn't really realise, yet, that it was wrong. I just went along on the assumption that we, as staff, had the right to do and say what we wanted to do and say and that people with disabilities who didn't go along with it were behaviour problems.
What also struck me though, and maybe really for the first time, when I answered her question. Was that I am so much more outspoken now, so much less likely to let things simply lie for two reasons. One is obvious. I'm older. I'm moving towards the kind of wonderful freedom that comes with that. But the other isn't quite so obvious, or may be obvious to all but me. I have much more power now than I did when I was a direct care staff. I hold a position of authority at work. I hold a position of a little renown in my field of endeavour. I have little fear of reprisal for holding opposing views.
I wonder if I do enough, or think enough about the voice of those who provide direct care. The voice of parents or the voice of staff are often discounted by those with more authority, those who 'know more.' I worry about the voice of people with disabilities. And I should do that. But aren't all voices necessary. Aren't all voices needed in order for there to be a chorus, for there to be harmony?
I'm glad I was asked the question.
Because I still have much to learn.
Still have much to realise.
And there's a lot more growing to do.