I learned a long time ago that ‘identifying needs’ as a starting point for supporting people with disabilities was not the way to go. The more lists I made, the more impossible it became to imagine meeting all the needs – and worse – making the lists distracted me from recognizing the talent, gifts and assets that exist within the people we serve – not to mention their families, friends, BACI and community partners. This deficit based approach perpetuated the image of the people we serve as ‘needy’ and impeded our efforts to support their inclusion in community. What I am just now starting to learn is that the deficit roots in our sector run deep and moving away from them is far more difficult than I imagined it would be ten years ago.
A decade ago, I thought the answers lay in values based staff training, person centred planning, the development of effective safeguards, personal support networks and family advocacy. I thought that if we truly focused on a person’s strengths, and then supported the person to share those strengths with others – they would be welcomed into community and they would belong. What I didn’t understand, or at least underestimated was the depth of influence the deficit perspective has had on our sectoral practices, from policy development, to advocacy approaches, funding agreements, to service provision.
I am beginning to learn that as an organization we have got to behave differently if we want different results. I am learning that when we actually think in new ways, new strategies are plentiful and opportunity is everywhere.
To start with, we must no longer see ourselves as, introduce ourselves as, or promote ourselves as a needy charity that looks after all the people that don’t belong. We must see ourselves as the agents of a huge talent pool with tremendous assets, introduce ourselves as an economic contributor with huge purchasing power, and promote ourselves as innovative change makers with amazing concepts and ideas ready to move forward. – To do otherwise will perpetuate deficit.
In 2011 I would like to make our collective assets more visible and more effective. I am interested in discovering new ways to better leverage these assets with our community partners to advance our agenda of social inclusion. If we do that –there will be no stopping us as a movement.