Could it be, that many people still feel that those with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities are somehow fundamentally different than everyone else? I think most professionals would deny feeling like this, however if we look at the way many programs are operated throughout the U.S, perhaps this is felt by more people than we want to admit. Listen friends, as long as we continue to separate one group of people from another, (even if this “other” group is simply called “special”), we are feeding perhaps the most destructive force pushing against true community inclusion. In fact I have grown to hate even the term community inclusion, because it is so often the very people preaching this idea that are operating segregated programs, and segregated living environments without any opportunities for meeting their neighbors, making friends, or getting to know the bartender’s name at the bar down the street.
Now, let me admit I was the poster child of this type of provider only a few short years ago. I was doing the best I knew to do and was as well intended as anyone. Yet, I was the problem. I would not have attended the day programs I built, I would not live in the homes we operated, but I slept good at night knowing that those programs where good enough for “them.” Now, here is why this is such a critical issue.
It’s human nature to accept a lower set of standards for “them” than we would ever tolerate.
I had no idea how deep the institutional mindset was inside me, in fact I felt I was pretty progressive! So, I won’t try and tell you that I have all the answers but I might have the first of many steps to making actual progress in this movement. We must break drown the barrier, the wall, between “us” and “them.” We have to see that everyone is “us”. Stop with the “special” this… and “special” that. We all have the very same needs. Does Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs ring a bell for anyone? Bueller…. Bueller….
Join me friends in taking a stand, join me in calling out the simple truth that we have more in common with people with disabilities than differences. It’s time for the professionals in this field to be the first to say and even more importantly to demonstrate, that the people whom we support are not as different as we once thought. There is no “us” and there is no “them” but rather #everyoneISus