Mon 25 Apr 2005
All of UCP’s clients are mentally disabled. Their disabilities fall all over the spectrum of impairment. There are clients, such as Junior, who are basically self-sufficient but still need assistance to focus their attention. There are other clients, such as Brian, who need constant care to perform basic tasks like using the restroom or taking off a jacket. There are also clients at UCP who have physical disabilities as well as mental disabilities. I met two clients who use wheelchairs. I met a blind client. There are also a few clients who have stability issues and need assistance walking. Each full-time staff member of UCP has detailed explanations of each client’s disabilities available to them. As a volunteer, however, I was not given such detailed information so my explanation of differing clients’ disabilities comes simply from observation.
UCP provides a wonderful service to many members of the greater Carlisle community. UCP provides a safe and comfortable environment where adults with mental disabilities can interact, learn, and be entertained. Each day clients have the opportunity to practice household skills, play games, or simply speak with other clients and staff members. Often UCP shows movies or takes field trips into the community. Nearly all of the clients seem to really enjoy being at the UCP facility. In addition, UCP provides a wonderful service for the families of adults with mental disabilities. Many clients are dropped-off and picked-up by their parents. UCP allows family members to have normal work days without having to worry about the health and wellbeing of their disabled loved ones.
Personally, I don’t feel like I made a great impact on the clients of UCP. I only visited with the clients a few times for two hours at a time. That being said, I feel that when I was at UCP I brightened a few clients’ days. Junior, for example, always seemed very excited to talk and make puzzles with me. I don’t feel as if I truly helped him but I think I provided him with friendship and entertainment. I also think I was helpful to the UCP staff. UCP, on a typical day, has over 20 clients and only 4 to 5 staff members. Each time I visited UCP I felt like my extra eyes and hands were greatly appreciated by the staff.
I think all of UCP’s clients face many problems in “normative” society. First and foremost, every client is visibly disabled. When they are interacting in society it is instantly clear that they are not “normal.” I am sure that they all receive weird stares and are made to feel different by many people in “normative” society. Furthermore, all of UCP’s clients are not totally self-sufficient. They all need help with a variety of tasks and none of them are capable of living on their own. Many of the clients realize that in “normative” society adults are supposed to take care of themselves. Therefore, they realize they are not like other adults. Finally, most of UCP’s clients do not even have opportunities to interact with “normative” society. Some clients live in group homes. During the morning and the night they are with other adults with disabilities at their group homes and during the day they are at UCP. Many of the clients can go days without entering “normative” society.
I found my experience at UCP very rewarding. At the beginning of this course we discussed the way “normative” society looks at the disabled. During class discussions I always felt as if I was better than they average norm. I didn’t think I looked at the disabled any differently than I look at anyone else. My experience at UCP proved me wrong. During my first visit I felt extremely uncomfortable interacting with the UCP clients. I didn’t know why, but I just felt out of place. With each subsequent visit, however, I have become more comfortable interacting with the clients. I now realize that I do, like many people in our society, look at people with disabilities as not “normal.” At the very least, my time at UCP has opened my eyes to the way I treat those around me. Now when I see someone with a disability, I try to focus on the fact that “normal” does not exist and therefore I should take everyone as the come and only evaluate someone after I know them.