I believe in freedom and choice about our supports and services. I also believe in leveling the playing field with people with disabilities and without disabilities by promoting awareness and education about what we can do, not what we can’t.
I think people in the community should be trained about people with diverse abilities and their contributions and abilities.
I think this training should come from people with lived experience. We should be supported to create and run the disability awareness and sensitivity training to reduce stigma around developmental disabilities and mental illness.
Service providers can help us connect with community members to promote our abilities and success stories.
Here are some of my tips and advice for service providers.
1. It’s human nature to fear what we don’t understand.
Support people who have lived experience to challenge stereotypes and train people in the community.Together we can reduce stigma around developmental disabilities and mental illness
2. Have mediation groups for self-advocates to relax. It’s hard work to always be trying to reduce stigma, so a mediation group is a good idea.
3. Make sure there is a mix of skills, abilities and experiences at all times on your Board. People with lived experience should be on the board of directors, as well as, have an advisory board with family members and self-advocates.
4. Awareness and community education in partnership with the people you support should be in your strategic plans.
5. Many of us have faced stigma all our lives and so have to take extra care of our mental health. Make sure to think about addressing mental illness/developmental disabilities as a dual diagnosis in planning for the future of your supports and services.