If It’s Not Good Enough for Me and My Family, It’s Not Good Enough for Those I Serve

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Instiute. This is the first in a series of blogs by staff members reflecting on lessons they have learned through Community Brokering.

The lesson I want to talk about is not a new one for me. Rather it is just a recent re-learning of something I have had to learn again many times over my career. It has to be personal. For people with disabilities, if it is not good enough for me and my family, it is not good enough for them.

We are emerging from an era in which we settled for far less for people with disabilities than for the rest of us. That era has been marked by lower expectations, poorer accommodations, a different standard for opportunities to work and even to play among the rest of us. Some aspects of that era remain with us, but we do see signs that the broader community is viewing people with disabilities differently and that the smaller community of people with disabilities and their families and the people paid to serve them are expecting more.

Just as the standard for community participation should be full community participation, with the necessary support and accommodations to make participation possible, so should the standard for respect, dignity and expectations be pure. I suggest that we should seek and accept nothing less for people with disabilities than for ourselves and our own families.

For many years the guiding principle for the development of services was Normalization. Normalization was defined as being as close to normal as possible, that is compared to the standards for those without disabilities. We have gone a long way toward eliminating the qualifying phrase, ‘as possible’. When we add ‘as possible’, we have already accepted less than what we would accept for ourselves and those close to us.

Yes, the reality is that people with disabilities will need more assistance than others. No, not everyone will have the same level of material goods. We are not equal in all ways. However, the standard of equity that we strive to meet must be the same.