Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You need will and courage to demand respect

By Tony Sampson 
Some agencies give people with disabilities the right to a clean home (for residential programs only), the right to good jobs and the right to independent outings and activities. 
Other than that, people who receive services from agencies sometimes don’t seem to have rights.
People in group homes often are told what to do all or most of the time. 
For example, a man I know was watching wrestling on TV, and his counselor told him it was time for him to take a bath.
After he took his bath and put on his pajamas, he was told to go to bed and not to finish watching his show because it was his bedtime.
Guess what? He was 34 years old. He was treated as if he were a child. He was also tricked out of watching his favorite show!
Tony Sampson
 Other rights violations occur in the so-called chain of command. 
Let me explain. A client was on probation (in my book, putting any person on probation for any reason is unfair), and his residential manager saw a letter he was trying to give to the director of the agency, a psychologist.
The counselor got angry and scolded the client in front of all the other people in the room who were waiting to see the other doctors. Talk about humiliation! And what made it worse is that he did not get any support when he notified higher-ups.
 Sometimes people with disabilities are denied their rights on the job. 
One client working at a grocery store sponsored by an agency wanted to take the day off to celebrate his birthday. He even asked 14 days ahead of time as is required in the policy. In fact, he asked for time off 17 days in advance. 
He asked his job counselor to ask the store manager on his behalf, and the same day the store manager came to him with a sad and unfriendly look on her face. She told him he could not take the day off. She stated that they needed him to work. He didn’t believe they needed him, but he had no other recourse.
Another important subject is freedom of speech. Last time I checked I was living in America. From what I’m about to write, I might be mistaken. 
A man I know was working at a grocery store as a custodian. His job was thankless. Almost every day he had to deal with people who didn’t respect him. People would take his items without asking. One time he was getting ready to mop the ladies’ room, and to his disbelief, he found his mop bucket was gone! 
“Who took my mop bucket?” he asked. 
“Relax,” a fellow employee told him. “I had a major spill to clean up, pal. You think you own the mop bucket?”
That guy was rude and disrespectful. 
The man replied, “Yeah, but you wasted my time. I had to wait to finish my job.”
Then his counselor got on his case and scolded him. Then the client said, “I meant no disrespect. I just asked where he put my bucket. He cost me time.”
She angrily replied, “Don’t ever talk to anyone like that, ever. You know better. You get a zero on your worksheet.”
The man I know replied that he was only standing up for himself, and in return, he was treated like a third-grader in the real world. 
In my book, that sucks! It’s a shame when people with disabilities are denied their rights and respect.
What can you do about it?
My advice to people who have questions or complaints about their counselors or the people who have control over their lives is to go to a supervisor, tell their psychologist or psychiatrist or notify the person in charge of providing support. In Maryland, that person is called a support broker.
Rights and respect are won gradually. But we have to have the will and courage to stand up for ourselves.

Self-advocate Tony Sampson is a graduate of Leaders in Disability Policy and a former member of the Maryland Disabilities Council. He has delivered many training sessions on inequality in the treatment of people with disabilities. He has worked at Home Depot for five years. 

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