Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

From Protection to Independence: Utilizing Intersector Cooperation to Ensure Consumer Options

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

From Protection to Independence: Utilizing Intersector Cooperation to Ensure Consumer Options

Article excerpt

In the 1970s an important part of the universal goal of institutional reform was to maximize the potential of all individuals with disabilities (Budd & Baer, 1976; Martin, 1977). Recently "maximum potential" has been described as the opportunity to make choices, experience individual freedom, and attain personal goals (Kiernan & Stark, 1989). As Reiter expressed (1991, p. 34):

A reformed institution is one in which residents achieve a sense of control over their lives. Freedom of choice and making decisions about one's private life exerts an enormous effect on one's sense of control. This is expressed in all aspects of life, whether the minor matter of what to eat today or the more serious question|s~ of where to live ... |or work~.

One strategy to promote choices is to simply place individuals with disabilities in those settings in which choices are possible. The identification--or creation--of those settings is a challenge to those who serve consumers with severe disabilities.

For over a decade vocational training and rehabilitation programs were often delivered in segregated workshop settings. A relatively recent shift in emphasis encourages community-based training and employment for consumers with disabilities. However, "appropriate service delivery" may or may not be realized simply by changing the service location. The structural environment may change while the interaction with community members remains the same (Meador, Osborn, Owens, Smith, & Taylor, 1991). If consumers are to become integral members of their resident communities, the efforts of providers, public and private sector agencies, family members, and consumers must be coordinated to fulfill each individual's specific needs and desires (Hardman, Heal, Haney, & Amado, 1988; Wehman, Moon, Everson, Wood, & Barcus, 1988).

The shift from a protected environment to one that promotes options, choices, and independence necessitates cognitive, semantic, and behavioral changes by staff and community members. The shifts occur as staff and community members think of themselves not as benevolent caregivers, but as friends, mentors, employers, and supervisors and of consumers as friends, co-workers, and employees. Shifts occur when staff members transcend relatively unimaginative roles that address implementing routine standards and assume active roles that promote community-based social and vocational competence. Shifts occur when staff assist members of the community to recognize and provide options for people with disabilities--options that allow them to be full participants in vocational, social, and recreational activities.

This article describes how a service program mobilized community involvement to make a shift. The shift changed services from segregated facility-based training to integration of consumers into all aspects of community life. Although this is a small program in a rural community, the procedures staff employed are applicable across programs and communities.

Historical Overview

Community-based facility. In 1979 the Bear River Adult Skill Center (BRASC) was established by parents to provide a service alternative outside of the home for their adult children with disabilities. Parents, Center staff members, the Eagles (a fraternal service organization), and representatives from the University that served as the contracting service entity located a facility, identified operational barriers, and secured operating revenue. However, as funding for basic in-house services was secured, parents' involvement diminished; interaction with other community members was minimal, and the necessity for a different kind of community involvement became apparent. Opportunities to function in the community were critical if consumers were to transcend dependent roles to become participants and partners.

Community-based training. Early integration efforts at BRASC (initiated through the Utah State University-Affiliated Center for Persons with Disabilities) piloted procedures to assist consumers in obtaining community-based employment. …

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