I want to take a week off politics to talk about a new idea I have been considering regarding independence for disabled people. Independence is a confusing term in relation to disabled people. There has been two main definitions of independence.
The first definition can be seen as connected to the medical model of disability. Here, independence means being able to do everything for yourself like getting dressed and so on. True independence is actually impossible because it could include baking bread instead of buying it and walking instead of taking the bus. It is therefore defined within a level of social conformity and allowed a generation of therapists to enforce a regime upon people with impairments that was unproductive.
Many people with impairments did not agree with these definition and they redefined independence within social care to relate to having choice and control over how things in their lives were done. They believed it did not matter if they were unable to do things for themselves, as they could employ staff that they can control themselves, and the important point is that they are able to decide how they do things. This is the kind of independence I had adopted since I went to university.
Recently, I have been wondering if there is a third way of looking at independence for people with impairments. For many of us, there is always going to be a number of things we are unlikely to be able to do for ourselves, even with technology, and this is fine. However, improvement sin technology means there are maybe times we can be left for longer periods without a presence of personal assistance than we need currently.
Personal assistance is a great tool but it does involve an emotional and practical investment that can be exhausting and restrict how we are and how we feel free. Quality time on our own, free from anyone else, can be very good for our emotional wellbeing, Therefore by still ensuring we have the support we need, it is also important to exploring how we live and use technology to ensure we can have a growing amount of time that is truly ours.
I am very aware that this idea will be seen as a justification for ‘unnecessary’ cuts but I believe the notion of independence will show a new maturity by people with impairments in understanding the notion of independence. It is about getting what we want whether that requires personal assistants or having quality time to ourselves. It is a concept that also needs exploring when we look at the long term purpose of social care.