Tue 19 Apr 2005
Members of CPARC’s independent, group and cluster homes are there because of mental disabilities. I do not know the causes of these disabilities are but I imagine that CPARC’s members represent a variety of medical syndromes. I am fairly certain that that all members were born with their disabilities. The degree of mental disability varies with the individual. It is obvious when you first meet them in some, and not until you spend some time with them in others. Interestingly, this outward appearance of disability has nothing to do with the level of assisted living the members receive. Impairments mostly consisted of poor memory and ability to perform routine actions completely independently. Some of the members also seem to have physical symptoms as well. Some moved slower than normal and others had poor motor skills. Others had difficulty speaking or walked with an awkward gait. Some members were also quite elderly and had severe hearing loss, troubles walking around. In some cases it was hard to tell what was related to the mental disability and what was not.
CPARC’s goal in this case is to make sure that those with disabilities can live the same quality of life as everyone else, with the ultimate goal of complete independent living. Though this particular goal is very rarely accomplished, the organization does greatly benefit its members. Individuals are placed in an environment suitable to the degree of their disability. Those who need more assistance are placed in the group home where they all live together in one house, other members are given their own individual apartments, some even maintain their own small house. CPARC’s main function is to help them with things which they just could not do by themselves, such as taking them to the doctor, to pharmacies to fill prescriptions, to any store for shopping or out to the Laundromat. They also make sure that the members pay their bills and take their medication appropriately. Another major service is providing competitive employment for its members. Through CIT, the members can work, earn money and gain vocational skills. CPARC also tailors learning programs to each individual helping them develop social or other everyday skills that they are in need of.
I would say that my impact on the people I spent time with was minimal except for one case. I felt that I brightened most members days by visiting them. Many said that I should come back. Others didn’t seem to care one way or the other. I think that spending a couple hours with them only once could have a negative impact though, as they could think that I didn’t really care about my time with them, or that I didn’t want to come back, but that may be reading too much into it. I have made a new friend though: a woman at the group home who also happens to work in the caf with me. I admit I often ignored the workers with disabilities up until now, but getting to know this individual has been a great experience. We stop and talk when we can and have gotten to eat together once or twice on breaks. I’ve asked about some of the other members who live at the same group home and she’s filled me in with how they’re doing. She’s also introduced me to another one of her mentally disabled co-workers who is very outgoing and we have been getting to know each other as well.
CPRAC members face several problems in a “normative” society. One major problem, which some of the staff mentioned to me, is the increased use of technology in daily life. CPARC members seem to have difficulty with computers and other advances technology. These are things that must be done, yet these individuals have great difficulty. While advances make life easier for most of society, it actually makes things much harder on those with mental disabilities. Things they used to be able to by themselves, such as paying the bills, or doing taxes, now require additional aid. Similarly, the need for transportation either for a job or just to buy groceries or use a laundromat also makes things difficult and forces them to be reliant on others. I think its also very difficult for those with mental disabilities to find jobs, which is important because they don’t always have a family or other people to support them. Socially I think those members of CPARC are often ignored by society. I certainly felt that way when I visited them; they didn’t seem to get many other visits.
Some of the disability theory, and representations of the disabled in literature, that we have discussed has been very relatable to my actual life experience. Like so many characters, I too misjudged or misread the individual with the disability, giving them less credit than they disserved. Several of Garland Thompson’s applications of Douglas’s theories for dealing with the anomalous were also evident during my service. First, I do think that it’s members are often ignored by society. I felt a little like I was in another world during my hours with CPARC, I was not aware of its existence or how it works. It provides services that I was hardly even aware were necessary. Its members often did seem alone. The method of dealing with the disabled that I felt most however was the integration of the disabled with “normal” society. Meeting the woman at the group home who I get to see at work has allowed me to actively participate in integration. Its much more obvious when you’re the one actually doing it. I would also say that it s defiantly a positive way of interacting with people with disabilities.