Same, same or different

A few thoughts have recently collided and I still don't know how to organise or articulate them. Here goes ...


I don't think it's right that our sector should be labelled 'disability'. It's phrased in the negative and doesn't describe what we do. Where else do we see this? We don't refer to health services as sick services, or the Department of 'The Sick'. We don't refer to education services as unlearn services or Department of 'The Unlearned'. Let's not do a parallel to child protection services, or youth justice services. See the degradation? We know all these industries, or services, have a title describing the assistance provided. In our sector aren't we providing support services? Could we be the Support Sector? Not sure; it could still have a negative social bias. Maybe there's a better description. The point is - I just don't understand why we continue to accept the label given to us. It perpetuates a social bias.


My next thought ... I don't think it's right that our sector is immersed in a charity bias. I understand history and I am incredibly hopeful of the probable social reforms that will follow NDIS. Charity has always been the social response to disadvantage. If reform means less and less disadvantage, shouldn't we be actively distancing ourselves from all the social biases attached to charity?


I look to some of the strategic methods of NDIS, in their attempts to ensure all providers are transparent about their financial transactions with consumers. What does this say? There are disreputable providers in our sector? Yes - undoubtedly. Are consumers within our sector relatively vulnerable? Yes - absolutely. Is it good that there are some safeguards being put in place? Yes - definitely.


I am just curious about what might happen around the assumption that not-for-profits operate with more altruistic values than for-profits. I'd like to challenge this space. I don't want to disrespect not-for-profits, I just want to challenge exclusivity. What about the space where social enterprises prove social conscience? While the government doesn't formally institute or recognise social enterprises through Fair Trading registration, we don't have safe alternatives. On an assumption that not-for-profits are safer than for-profits, 'disability' will continue to be linked to 'charity', and the social bias perpetuates.


In our society, the progressive battle to gain fundamental human rights has been long fought. We are still couched in operating assumptions and social biases that act as truths, when they are not.


Quite a number of years ago, I happened across the Blue Skies Group which formed in 2009. A decade later, reading over their scenario that was based in today, their vision and thoughts about what needed to happen, are quite remarkable.

In 2019, the community is strong and vibrant and embraces diversity.  While the work of growing community will never be complete, wherever a person with a disability lives, whatever their choice of lifestyle, their experience is one of rich inclusion and sense of belonging.

(excerpt from: The Vision)


It takes vision to know where we should go. The Blue Skies Scenario wasn't for everyone and looks a little dated now, but any vision, or new idea, comes with warts. It can't be perfect with all the details worked out. It's purely a visualisation; a different way of thinking.


This has me curious and I'd like to dabble. I can agitate in political arenas on the topics of social bias, if needs be, but my passion lies a little closer to home. The concept of GSL is based on three human needs:

  • a safe, nurturing home

  • a safe, supportive learning environment

  • a sense of belonging to communities of choice

Our range of services are organised around these needs, but I can't help but wonder what invisible or unexplored operating assumptions or biases we may have perpetuated. As the market is expanding I see services and supports that are more of the same. We are no different. In essence, we are all franchises of the same basic ideas, just with little points of difference.


Are there any radical new ideas out there? I know technology is featuring in optimising customer service and there's growth in the assistive technology, but where are the absurd, no-one-thinks-it-will-work ideas? Where are the ideas that make us feel uncomfortable because our biases are being triggered? How are we challenging ourselves to break out of old social constructs, so we can bring fresh new tomorrows that operate based on new truths?


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