“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A "form" of physical integration

A student of mine was recently writing about opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities to be integrated into the community.  He describes a scene where people are in the community but are largely being "protected" from the community.  The presence of "care providers" both facilitates isolation while communicating that the care providers are care providers and not people with impairments like those they are providing care for.  In discussing this with another friend, he reminded me of how in most any food court in America, you can sit and watch people with disabilities being brought into the setting, as a group, with their care provider/protector, being physically present but without any possible opportunity for social integration with the community.

I made the point with my student that he must be clear in speaking about forms of physical integration...being present physically but not present socially.  Perhaps the requirement of the agency for whom the care providers work is that people have the opportunity to physically be in the community.  Their assumption, I would assume, is that because there is physical proximity, there is also social integration going on.  This is a very foolish assumption.  Now obviously it is difficult to be socially integrated with someone if you are not in the same enviornment with them, but physical integration is completely different from social integration.  Some groups make no effort to physically integrate people because of the way they perceive those with disabilities, all but indicating that there is something about them that makes them unworthy or at best ineligible to be socially integrated.  These people are fools who should not be given any responsibility relative to the support of persons with disabilities.  Unfortunately, our secular models for the delivery of human services seeks people who see persons with disabilities as unintegratable which makes the segregationist models for human services more administratively convenient.

I mean imagine care providers truly taking people to the food court such that they will meet and integrate with others in the community.  As soon as unregulated, community members have access to persons with disabilities, there is the risk that relationships might be built.  Once you have a relationship with me as a state regulated person with an impairment, you might become concerned about the treatment I am receiving.  You might show up at my group home or my sheltered workshop, or even at the food court where I am eating.  You will see those managing me frustrating any efforts on my part at social integration, and you might start to complain.  How much better if you would not care about people with impairments, leave their care up to those who are "trained" and go about your business.  That is the form of physical integration which is most likely desired by those providing services.  The involvement of community members in the lives of people who are regulated is simply too messy to manage.

As the church and Christian community awaken to persons with disabilities in the community, they will experience significant push back from those who manage their lives.  Push back will come in the form of prohibiting things that they really don't have the right to prohibit.  Limiting choices about choices that shouldn't be limited (my daughter told me of a man consistently given a cheese sandwich for lunch when he wanted waffles, which of course was quite unreasonable untill a lawyer showed up).  Limiting relationships through the desire to regulate everyone in the life of someone with an impairment.  These are the kinds of behaviors which influence the experience of physical integration of persons with disabilities.  It is not in the best interest of the state, of agencies, of care providers for people with disabilities to be truly physically integrated leading to true social integration.


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