Equity equals choice

Stories | December 11, 2023 | Author: Stevie Wills, CBM Associate

A community that is moving towards equity for people with disabilities is working to make all opportunities and choices accessible to all people so that people with disabilities are supported to live the life they want to lead.

Equity is the ultimate goal, but it’s also a way of working at every level.

I have encountered people in support roles that have enabled my choices and others that have diminished them.

I enjoy living on my own in my apartment. Support workers assist me with preparing food, cleaning, shopping and transport. My regular support workers enable my independence and choice. When they arrive, they ask me what the plan is for that day.

In contrast, when I tried to talk to a fill-in support worker about what support I’d like, she insisted that I give her space to read the notes. She wanted me to be quiet so that she could read notes that were written about me.

To aid digestion, I have smoothies for dinner and my main meal at lunch. When she was making my smoothies, the support worker said I was a “spoilt lady”, because I had a number of things in my smoothie. Her tone was like that of speaking to a child when they receive a lollypop. She called me “spoilt” several times while she was making my meal, despite me trying to tell her a few times that it wasn’t being spoilt, it was being healthy.

I have my hot drinks pre-made in soup cups, which are put in the fridge, ready to be heated in the microwave when I want them. I asked the support worker to put them in the fridge. She wouldn’t do it because she said they needed to cool down first. She said “I can’t believe nobody’s told you that.” I said that it’s fine, that everyone does it, and to just put them in the fridge. She didn’t do so. She believed that I wasn’t competent to make decisions for myself, and it was best if she made them for me.

I felt uncomfortable, stressed and powerless. I wasn’t in control of what was happening, not even in my own home. I continued to feel ‘yuck’ for a few days. I had been treated like a child, disrespected and disempowered.

This support worker was not operating from an equity perspective, and it had a significant negative impact on me.

I invite you to reflect on how you go about supporting people in your life or work.

If you work in international development, it is critical that people with disabilities and their representative organisations are consulted about that which impacts them and participate in developing the solutions.

A community that is moving towards equity is working to ensure that opportunities and choices are accessible; that people with disabilities are supported to live the lives that they want to lead.

About Stevie Wills

Since 2011 Stevie has worked for CBM Australia as a volunteer, employee and an associate. She has advocated for the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities in low- to middle-income countries, as well as disability inclusion among Christian communities in Australia. Stevie speaks of inclusion and empowerment, with a focus on people with disabilities. She has a passion for the power of words to create social change. 

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