Today, May 1st is “blogging against disablism day”, an annual day for bloggers to write about anything related to disability. As always, it is hosted by
diary of a goldfish
and you can read more about it and find out how to join in
This is my first time to participate, and here’s my post.
Centres for independent living (CIlS) provide personal assistants (PAs) for people with physical and sensory disabilities in Ireland, to help them live as independently as possible. Clients are often referred by family members, social workers and other disability organisations. They complete a detailed application form to determine if they are eligible for a PA, and what tasks they need assistance with. The person with the disability directs their own service, in other words, they decide what they need help with and what they want their PA to do from day to day.
Why exactly would a blind person need a PA? That’s a question I sometimes find myself having to answer and explain to people with and without sight.
When the idea of a personal assistant was suggested to me over four years ago, I wasn’t really interested. I wanted to do things by myself, and felt that having a PA would mean that I was depending on somebody to do things for me. In fact, this is quite the opposite, since having a PA allows me to do things that I would otherwise not be able to do.
I live in a rural area, so public transport is not always readily availible. If I didn’t have the assistance of a PA, I wouldn’t be able to travel to the studio to record my weekly radio show. I mightn’t be able to bring my guide dog to the vet immediately when he needs to go. I would have difficulty teaching my dog new routes that I am unfamiliar with. I wouldn’t be able to do my job as well in work, because I would be confined to the office, where I can only do so much. I mightn’t be able to do a part-time or evening course if I found oneI was interested in, and I wouldn’t be able to explore new opportunities and interests. I know there would be many more opportunities availible if I moved to a city, but I like living in my home town, where I grew up and where people know me. I think its a pity that people feel that they have to move away in order to live independently. If we all moved away from our communities, these communities would never have to make an effort to become more accessible. I know its difficult to find work in small towns, and that’s the only thing that would prevent me from staying in my home town.
I know there are blind people who live completely independently, without the help of an independent living service. It can be done effectively, but this depends on the area in which you live, the facilities availible to you and how motivated you are as an individual. I know people who depend on their family or partners to help them. My family are always willing to help, but I know that I would feel bad if I had to ask them to help with every single thing that my PA does. As a result, I would avoid doing things because they cause other people to have to go out of their way for me. My PA gets paid and this is her job, so I don’t feel bad about asking her to go somewhere with me, as long as she has enough notice.
I am in the lucky position that I have a wide circle of friends to socialise with. My PA is twenty years older than me, so it would not be appropriate if I had to depend on her to accompany me on all my social activities. We get along very well but we just aren’t interested in all the same things! Some people have no choice but to use their personal assistant to bring them to the cinema, to gigs, for dinner etc, and this works well for them. I would personally hate people to socialise with me because it is their job and they are getting paid. I want people to do things with me because they want to, not because they have to.
I know people who are blind, who would be too proud to apply for help from an organisation such as a CIL. In reality, some of these people are not able to do the things they would like to independently. As a result, they miss out on opportunities, and don’t get to do the things they really want to. This means that they are ultimately less independent because their opportunities are limited
If you are ever given the opportunity to apply for a personal assistant, don’t dismiss it as quickly as I did at first. Consider how it might improve your quality of life. If it is organised well and you are in control of your own service, having a personal assistant can be a great enhancement to the life of a person with a disability.