Challenges Around Choice: What does different look like and how do we get there?

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. Easier said than done. "As we co-laborers in inclusive community building continue this work, let us be careful to remind ourselves that we too love it when our choices are welcomed, supported and respected in this community."

The Arcadia Institute is not an island of change agents. We function in tandem with organizations, families and individuals who are compassionate about overcoming systemic hurdles associated with responding to identified choices that persons with disabilities make and want to be able to make.

Sometimes that means supporting the choices of the individual by going against the grain of the parent, the service provider, the instructor or even the community broker. Choice means also that it's not about what we think, see, feel or observe as "best" for the individual who happens to have a disability. An inclusive, beloved community makes way for choices made by persons with disabilities simply because persons with disabilities have the same dreams, aspirations and desires as persons without a disability.

Honoring an individual’s choice sometimes means being willing to tailor our pace of communication and expectation of goal attainment to better serve that individual and respect their pace. Granted, an occasional, gentle nudge may be needed on the part of the Community Broker towards the person with a disability as we assist them in stretching towards their identified choices. Assisting them also with identifying and exercising their own voice and not the choices that may simply please those around them within their community circles.

Oftentimes valuing the choices of individuals with disabilities requires researching deeper and perhaps educating organizations, families and individuals about the alternative ways in which to "skin a cat".

Accommodations may be required to support an individuals choice and may cause the process to be a bit more drawn out at times. Barriers that we bump into when exploring for the sake of finding a solution, often become the start of a new door being opened for others to walk through in the future.

One of the real dances that community brokers must learn to do and get good at is the dance between the comfort level of the rightfully protective parent and the choice of the individual with a disability. Parent support plays such a critical role in affirming the growth that occurs during the learning of those new steps. The flip side can be derailing and a return to familiar and sometimes stagnant place for our participants whose parent may or may not agree with their choice.

The community broker invests a lot of time and energy into the relationship and trust building process and can also become a stumbling block with a subconscious tug of war against an identified choice. The fine line of envisioning a bit too far ahead of the true visionary, the participant.

Let us not forget to celebrate how far we all HAVE come from days of old when there were almost no choices available on any level for persons with disabilities. As we co-laborers in inclusive community building continue this work, let us be careful to remind ourselves that we too love it when our choices are welcomed, supported and respected in this community.

Recently, the older brother of one of our participants asked his younger brother, who has a disability, the question " Why are you moving out and leaving your mother's house?" to which he replied " Why did YOU leave?"

Granted, his brother may have been speaking from a place of loving fear and genuine concern, but I can only imagine that when older brother visits to help him with his laundry at times, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment when at the end of the day, they both get to live the life they each have chosen.