Thursday, March 12, 2015

The way things are...

‘If one would say to the average citizen, “I want you to take five men and buy a house in a neighborhood in a little town where those five men can live for ten years. And then I want you to be sure that they are unrelated in any significant way to their neighbors, that they will have no friends, and that they will be involved in none of the associational or social life of the town.” I think that almost every citizen would say that this is an impossible task.Nonetheless…systems of…community services have managed to achieve what most citizens would believe impossible-the isolation of labeled people from community life even though they are embedded in a typical house in a friendly neighborhood in an average town’(McKnight 1989 p. 2 as cited in O’Brien & O’Brien p. 35).

That is how McKnight, the community expert characterized life in many residential facilities for adults with disabilities. I don't think this characterization is highly debatable. It is pretty much true for me, at least from my experience. My questions are, 
"Why are we satisfied with this?"
"Aren't there any other options?"
"Is there something prohibiting us from developing other options?"
I have an opinion on why things are the way they are, but for the moment, I would just encourage readers to reflect on McKnight's comments and my questions. I believe there is a foundational change that needs to occur in the way that most human services are developed and purveyed and without that fundamental change, we have little hope for anything different.
Think about what you see in residential services where you are and reflect on whether things are different. Is there anything you might do in your setting to make things better?

The starting point is to not be satisfied with the way things are. If you don't know how things are, I dare you to try to get a friend who lives in a community residential facility and that in itself will give you an inkling of how things are.


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