Would you be willing to knock at the door???

“Men and women have shaved heads and are lying on the floor. It’s just like the pictures you see of the institutions in the 1950s.”

 

Ashley and I spent a Thursday and Friday in Athens with citizen advocacy coordinators from around Georgia. We all get together four or five times a year for what we call “Think and Drink.” Both are useful.

 

One citizen advocacy coordinator talked about being blocked from recruiting an advocate for a woman who is living in a personal care. This is done through the perverse use of confidentially regulations, mixed with intimidation of the people who live there. She said, “Men and women have shaved heads and are lying on the floor. It’s just like the pictures you see of the institutions in the 1950s.”

 

We talked about ways for her to get a citizen advocate inside the personal care home or the day program run by the same organization. She had already tried each suggestion. We circled back to our core assumptions, and looked for ideas there.

 

We have one tool, one thing we can offer a person with a disability who is being abused, neglected or deprived of opportunity in our community. We can offer an interested citizen who voluntarily takes up the person’s cause as an advocate.

 

Could she recruit a citizen advocate and ask them simply, “Go knock at the door and ask for entrance?”

 

If the citizen was denied entrance as she was denied, the citizen advocate could decide what to do next:

  • The citizen advocate might go back the next day and ask for entrance again.
  • The citizen advocate might send a letter asking to see the regulations that bar them from entrance.
  • The citizen advocate might contact the appropriate oversight agency.
  • The citizen advocate might contact the appropriate State Department that monitors the oversight agency.
  • The citizen advocate might contact their State Representative or Senator and ask them to inquire about policy and oversight.
  • The citizen advocate might discover that the personal care home company has good political connections and that nothing is going to be done through any official channels.
  • The citizen advocate might stand outside the house all day with a “Free These People” protest sign.
  • The citizen advocate might take another person with another protest sign. And then another. And then another.
  • The citizen advocate might hope the personal care home operators call the police.
  • The citizen advocate might ask the police to go inside the house and see the men and women with shaved heads lying on the floor.
  • The citizen advocate might hope that one of the police officers has a son or a daughter or brother or sister with a disability and would be outraged by what’s going on.
  • The citizen advocate might go back again with the “Free These People” sign and know that bearing witness and calling attention to injustice is part and parcel of being a Southerner of conscious.

 

The citizen advocacy coordinators who work Atlanta, Augusta, Athens, Gainesville, Milledgeville, Macon and Savannah have one tool – we invite citizens to take up the cause of one person whose life is being diminished because of prejudice toward disability.

 

We invite people to knock at the door.

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