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Shelly’s Blog

I watched the “You can’t ask that” about Down syndrome on the ABC recently.

Eight people, living with Down syndrome answer questions from the public; questions that a polite society says you shouldn’t ask.

For me, the most poignant discussion is about being treated like children, or being patronised because you have a disability.  Oh my gosh, I loathe being patronised, so I can only imagine what it might be like for someone with Down syndrome.

In my mind, it is vital that we use positive and empowering language.  Yes, we have to be real, to not be real would be patronising; consequently we have to take the time to explain.  One of the people in the TV show last night, said “My thinking is slower than other people, that don’t mean I can’t think.  Nailed it!

In contrast, I am not a very tall person, so my walking is slower than some other people but it doesn’t mean I can’t walk.

We make a choice every day in all our interactions; will I empower or disempower?  The choice sits with us as individuals and we choose how we behave and how we relate.

In the past few weeks there have been reports of disability providers not maintaining or prioritising the safety of people who are supported in shared accommodation.  It is abhorrent, immoral and illegal.

How people like me manage claims of abuse, sits with our integrity and morality. It also is about investing into a healthy organisational culture, ensuring employees are trained and competent and that there are real and appropriate mechanisms for reporting breaches of policy and then taking action.

The provision of accommodation services can be complex and demanding; trained people are required to coordinate the support of each person’s wellbeing.  When employees are not trained, feel unsupported, this is when the “trouble” starts.

Adults with an intellectual disability are not second class citizens, neither are they children. The legal system is not sure how to manage children or people with an intellectual disability; I understand that, so sometimes the responsibility will come back to you and me.

My role it to manage an organisation that is safe for all people and where everyone is respected and cared about; to have appropriate policies, procedures and protocols that work and meet the Disability Standards; to never put my head in the sand and to be brave when I don’t really feel like it.