Oftentimes, people with disabilities have a lot of decisions made for them–it may be assumed that they aren’t capable of making their own choices or they aren’t given the opportunity to do so. At Keshet, our programs are designed to provide choice, giving adults with disabilities the same rights, freedom to make their own choices and deserve to have their voices heard just as anyone else. The expansion of advocacy groups at GADOL has brought choice to the forefront. Led by Adult Services Social Worker, Hannah Kane, team members have spent time learning what their rights are and how to properly express those rights. As a result, our adults have become more equipped to self-advocate and independently make their own choices, allowing them to spend their days exactly how they want to.
Advocacy groups piqued interest for adults prior to Election Day, allowing for an opportunity to discuss the importance of political advocacy and the right to vote. Since the election, team members were broken up into four different groups to help develop lists of their own individual rights that they can apply to their days both in and out of GADOL. Together, they discussed what these rights mean to them and what to do when those rights aren’t being respected by someone else. They learned who to go to and how to formally file a complaint if a right is violated.
Once the advocacy groups met independently, it was time to showcase their expertise with their fellow team members. Each group worked together to develop definitions of their rights in their own words and created visuals to go along with them on posters. These posters will be formally presented to all of GADOL’s team members, which gives them an opportunity to train their peers and answer questions. They will then be hung up permanently on-site for both participants and staff to reference when needed.
Having the fundamental knowledge of rights has led to a significant mindset shift and changes for everyone in our day program. After discussion one day, one team member was surprised to learn that he could have visitors at GADOL whenever he wanted. He then invited a friend to have lunch with him at GADOL and show him around the space he loves going to each day. Even staff have begun challenging their own perceptions about what their team members can do. Having an open dialogue with participants to respectfully communicate and share their perspectives has made a tremendous difference and allowed for more opportunities for self-direction in their days at GADOL–which is the ultimate goal of the program.
Advocacy groups at GADOL have given our adults the opportunity to better understand their individual rights and how to properly advocate for them. As a result, team members have collectively created a more accepting community where every voice is able to be heard. We are looking forward to moving onto the next phase of advocacy work, which is focused on identifying and advocating for specific causes.
Special thanks to Hannah Kane, Adult Services Social Worker, for her contributions to this blog.