This is Providing More Choice?

Where do I begin? There are so many things wrong with this story that it’s mind-boggling. A bunch of people have decided that all institutions for people with developmental disabilities must go. They claim it’s so people can have a choice of where to live, and they will be better off if integrated into the community.

Ok, I agree that, if a person can live out in the community, that’s a hell of a lot better for them than putting them in a place that will do everything for them. If someone isn’t helpless already, they will become that way if left in an institution where everything is done for them. But there are some people who just can’t do it in the community. They just can’t, and trying to integrate them would be ridiculous.

There was a girl in our school who was deaf and blind, had her brain pretty smacked up in a car accident when she was a baby so was pretty low-functioning developmentally, her level of communication consisted of the signs “more”, “toilet”, “eat”, and “drink.” To go to the toilet, get more of whatever she wanted, eat, or drink, someone else had to go get it or bring her to it. Otherwise, she would just sit there. Because she didn’t walk around much, she needed daily physiotherapy. Audibly, all she could do was go, “oo oo, ee ee.” Another one couldn’t move at all, and couldn’t express himself in any way. They even tried putting something behind his head so that if he pushed it to the left with his head, it would say yes, the right would say no. He couldn’t even do that. Another girl, after a massive car accident, was so badly brain-damaged that her workers had to remind her to swallow! Are they going to integrate in the community? No, I don’t think so. They’re going to live with mom and dad, or they’re going to be in some kind of institution or home where they can be cared for. That is the fucking reality!

I am sick of one group telling everyone else that, because this way of living worked for them, it should be forced on everyone, and then doing it in the name of giving them more choice. It’s like when the National Federation of the Blind decided that audible street-crossing signals, those things that chirp or cuckoo when it’s safe to cross, should be scrapped, and yelled whenever cities tried to put them in. Ya know, sometimes those audibles come in handy. I’d like to take those NFB bastards to downtown Guelph to St. George’s square and make them cross the street without the help of the audible there. Guess what? When it’s your time to go, there is 0 traffic flow. No clues. Or better yet, I’d like to see them cross at one of the crossings in the middle of a block without the audible. Sometimes, they help, and if you don’t want to use them, that’s fine, but someone else may use them all the time and it may make things better for them. Everybody does things in different ways. That’s what makes the world work. And how, logically, is taking away an option for someone giving them more choice? It’s just forcing them to make the same choice these other people made.

I am also sick of these groups making sweeping generalizations without taking into account how this will effect the families of the people they’re booting out of institutions. If these people all have to live with mom and dad, what happens when mom and dad get too old to take care of them, or they can’t afford the home care. Are these do-gooders going to come over and take over where mom and dad left off, changing diapers, spoonfeeding them dinner, and providing their physio? Let’s face it, some people may need that sort of thing.

Or what if, after a family has been taking care of someone who needs that level of care day in and day out with little respite, they just snap? How is that good for the well-being of the person being cared for? It’s not their fault that taking care of them is hard. But they will for sure pay for it.

And how far do we go with this “all institutions are bad” thing? Nursing homes are institutions. They’re there because some people reach a point where they just can’t stay in their home safely anymore. Should we close all of those too? Is it better to throw all these people out in the community to be cared for by who knows who?

And can these advocates stop saying “institutions for people with disabilities” when they mean institutions for people with intellectual disabillities? They make it sound like any adult with a disability is being shipped off to an institution *because* they have any disability. I get visions of that scene from the movie the Miracle Worker where a young Annie Sullivan is being taken to an institution because she was blind in one eye. Nope, if someone is in an institution today, there is likely a reason they are there. Sometimes there are mistakes, but that’s going to happen in any situation. Closing the institutions is not going to stop people from being put in places where they have no need to be.

And what about the people who may go to these places to get the help they need, and then go out into the community? Are these heros and saviours who want every facility closed going to pick up the slack? Then they’d better get busy.

Ug. There’s just so many problems. People need to realize that there is no universal solution to anything, no matter what it is. Everybody needs a different level of help. Why not leave the institutions open for the people who need them, have community supports available, and let people who can fend for themselves live their lives? How hard a concept would that be?

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