Monday, September 04, 2017

LaboUr Day

In Canada, like the UK and other countries in the Commonwealth, we spell 'labour' with a 'u' ... and today, in particular, I think that's so appropriate. I was talking to an elderly woman yesterday who was really excited about her Labour Day plans, she will be taken by her aide to a family gathering. She told me that she resisted getting a personal assistant because she didn't want to admit to needing help. But she says she is now as mobile and active as she was in her 30s.

As I left the conversation I thought a lot about direct support professionals. I thought of those who helped me in the early days of my disability. I thought about access and community and options and freedom. I thought about a work force whose impact changes the world.

Of course labour has a 'u' in it.

U make it possible for someone to take part in the everyday tasks of living. This may seem mundane to some but it's not. I lived in an inaccessible apartment for 10 years and now, in a home I can live in, I can do the dishes. I can't tell you how that feels. But I can tell you providing service so that someone can do what they need to do changes their world.

U make it possible for someone to use their own voice. Yesterday we were in a movie theatre and a direct support professional was assisting a young woman to order popcorn before going to the movie. She spoke softly and you, a Direct Support Professional, created space for her to be able to speak for herself. It was difficult and you had to be gently assertive with those behind in line, but you did it. One of the most amazing acts of direct support I've seen. That's why there's the world 'professional' in Direct Support Professional. You were incredibly gifted.

U change the community by being there supporting people who have been denied community. Every time you go out with someone you reclaim ground that was once lost. People lived in shadows, in basements, in attics, in institutions, locked away from the eyes of others. You defy prejudice and you confront bias just by being with, supporting carefully and treating someone, once cast away, as a valuable person. It's a powerfully political act that will eventually reclaim your part of the world for people with disabilities.

Labour has a 'u' in it.

And U are at work today.

And U will make a difference today.

And U ensure that dreams are achieved.

Of course LABOUR has a 'u' ... of course it does.

4 comments:

Ted Bates said...

Brilliant!

clairesmum said...

U are right!
Stopped for a coffee at a local shop and there were a group of intellectually disabled boys and girls (middle school age) were ordering snacks.
While placing my order and then sitting at a table, i was near enough to see and hear interactions. I was also doing paperwork, so i don't think I was staring.
There were 2 direct support staff, and about 8 students.
There was another couple, one man and one woman sitting at the next table over.
Observing the students and support staff while ordering showed kindness, patience, and genuine care by support staff and the sales person.
As the students completed their orders and went to their tables, it became apparent that the man at the next table was 'the man in charge.' I did not observe the patience and kind tones/words when he was calling out instructions to the direct support staff and students as the counter. His tone of voice had elements of cruelty wrapped up in fake concern, artificially overly cheery but generic 'encouraging' statements ('positive reinforcement' phrases, perhaps), and impatience with both students and direct support staff.
One of the direct support staff had chosen a table some distance away, and 3 clients were seated with her. My path to the exit went past their table, and I could see smiles on all their faces. I approached and waited until the support person turned to me. I told her that I was impressed by her patience and kindness, I apologized to all 4 ladies for interrupting their conversation, and said I hoped they all had a wonderful day.

I hope I wasn't being inappropriate in some way...I was very mindful of all that I have learned from you, Dave...and of my own practice of appreciating kindness and good manners by people in public places when I can do so quietly without creating attention.

Hope you and Joe are enjoying your new apartment.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

What a lovely tribute. Many of the 'caring professions' - teacher, doctor, nurse, caregiver, babysitter, nanny... - forget, don't care, or are bored with their real job: helping someone else in the way that someone needs. Not in the way the carer wants.

Yes, that includes doctors. Informed consent so often isn't.

It's a switch - helping someone vs. doing it for them - which depends on the carer's whole attitude toward life. It is bad the carer is not always fairly compensated for the work.

Happy Labour Day (didn't know Canada had it on the same day) - you certainly do the work. And, I understand, now you also do the dishes.

Mary Romer said...

Beautifull statement, Dave! Thank you!