Empowering Disabled People to be More Independent

Yesterday I had a social worker round to check about my care package etc, and it got me thinking about independence and how important it is for people to see it from the disabled person’s point of view. The meeting went great by the way (yay).

Part of why I’m so independent myself is because of my fab parents (yes mum and dad give y’sen a pat on’t back). There are little things that can be done to make sure disabled people feel heard and in charge of their life as much as possible. So I thought I’d give some advice for any caregiver, parent, friend, PA, etc etc.

Don’t make the choices

Now, as small as it sounds, even if you’re offering someone a biscuit, give them the biscuit tin so they can choose what (and how many) they want.  There’s nothing worse than someone picking out your biscuit and it’s a fig roll. Well, I hate fig rolls anyway. But the point is, sometimes we have ways we always do things. But I love the fact that my parents have always given me a choice. Whether it’s picking biscuits or Universities to go to.

Allow things to go wrong

This is probably the hard one right? It’s really easy to want to protect someone and make sure they don’t come across any bumps or hurdles. But, people (aka me) can be stubborn, and sometimes need to learn for themselves. For example, so many people tell me “ooh cover your chest you’ll get a chest infection”. I don’t because I’m me and want to be my own boss. The next month I get a chest infection and I think “better get mi scarf out”. But, the point is, when you’re disabled, it’s often that you get treated like a child from everyday people – so being told what to do can create this defensive wall straight away. Sometimes it’s good to experience things, make mistakes and great changes to know our future choices.

It’s not about speed

When people see disabled people trying to do something, a lot of people don’t like to see them “struggle” so they may say things like “Oh I’ll get that for you” or “it’ll be quicker if I do it”. But here’s the thing, sometimes it’s just about doing it yourself. It can be really disheartening when you’re nearly there and someone swoops in and does it for you. So remember, sometimes it’s not about how fast the job gets done, it’s about feeling accomplished.

Independence doesn’t mean doing something on your own

For readers who are new, you won’t know – I’ve been employing PA’s since I was 18 years old. It’s one of the best things I’ve done and really upped my independence. I feel like that word makes it seem like you have to be doing everything yourself, but it really doesn’t. Having PAs for me meant that I could do things how I wanted and when I wanted. I could go out freely and do what I enjoy without having to ask my parents to take me and hang around to open doors etc. So independence to me is just about doing what makes you happy, when you want to.

Keep checking in

As we all know, over time things develop, we change as people and may want different things. As disabled people, we are often expected to be happy with the basics. But, it’s important to keep the conversation going. What someone might want a year ago, might be totally different now. Change can seem scary, but don’t let that stop you from empowering someone to make things different for the better. Who knows what could happen if you open your mind to it, ey!?

Gem x