Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bringing the disabled into the community

I actually ventured out of the house on Tuesday night - and headed not to the supermarket but to a conference organized by our Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities.

Riding the wave of a recent abuse scandal in a large private institution, the Center aimed to galvanize the public to action. As I have mentioned before, institutions are still the norm here for thousands of disabled citizens. In-community residences are almost non-existent.

The Center's spokesperson was impassioned and well informed. She enumerated all the logical reasons for de-institutionalization. Here are just a few:

Everyone, including the disabled enjoys the inalienable right to live within the community.

Nobody needs to earn that right by winning neighborhood approval.

Citizens opposed to the disabled in their midst don't need to be "convinced" or "educated" first (that could take decades!) They will adjust to people with disabilities after the creation of facts on the ground.

The cost to taxpayers for care of people with disabilities in small residences will be the same as it is in large, isolated institutions. The higher expense for the care of some will be offset by the lowered outlay of others. Overall, there will be a financial status quo.

People with disabilities will still be inherently vulnerable to abuse in small residences. But potential abusers will be deterred by the presence and scrutiny of neighbors and passers.

Large, hermetically-sealed institutions on the other hand are isolated from critical eyes. They are fantastic enablers of sadism.

Infrequent spot checks by government supervisors hardly make a dent in institutional abuse.

I am only mildly optimistic. This dedicated center has been campaigning, writing and speaking out against institutionalization of the disabled for over a decade. In that time, few small residences have been established, while a new and gargantuan institution has erupted in the midst of our desert.

Not an encouraging score.

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