Um well, is there a definitive answer to this question, or is it a matter of preference and choice….
Whilst there were a range of opinions on this in the office, it is ultimately down to the individual what they have for breakfast……
And there we have Equal Lives and its groups….how you may ask are they related….?
Well that is what our work is all about, giving people choice and control over their lives.
Whilst there may be a huge range of opinions on how a person leads their life, what they should or shouldn’t do, have, say etc etc the ultimate decision should be down to the person themselves.
There are a range of ways we support this philosophy:
Providing information and advice
Employment and Payroll services
Opportunities to be involved in service developments
Campaigns to enable people to get their voices heard
Personal budget support
Knowing the options is the key to being able to make a choice and take control – if you are told you can only have cereal for breakfast then that is what you have.
Last week I visited the West Norfolk Self- Advocacy Project led by and for people with Learning difficulties/Disabilities. The group is all about giving people the support and skills to live independent lives in their own homes, manage their own finances, have the knowledge and confidence to make arrangements and use public transport and ultimately give them choice and control over there lives.
The key to our work and the work of our groups is that it is peer led designed, developed and run by those with real life experience of the issues and barriers disabled people face and the effects these have physically, emotionally and mentally, on not only the disabled person but their families and carers.
Going to a group when I first lost my sight not only gave me the information I needed around practical support like equipment, benefits and welfare issues, it also showed me that that was not all my life was about after sightloss.
Talking to people with experience of sightloss I found they still worked, went to the theatre, concerts, shopping, cooked, enjoyed film and TV and generally just got on with their lives with a few adjustments to make things accessible.
We also got to talk and laugh about all the silly embarrassing things we had done that only someone with a similar experience can really understand.
And so from a blinkered outlook on what my life as a blind person would entail, primarily fuelled by ignorance, media perception and heresay I began a journey of discovery, disasters and adventure that have led to more opportunities and experiences than I would have probably explored prior to my sightloss.
Developing a ‘give it a go’ can do attitude meant I would have a go and try things and decide for myself if I liked them, could do them, wanted to do them and ultimately this brings us back to choice and control.
Would I have got there without the information, practical and emotional support I received then I doubt it, oh a sense of humour too of course and a great bunch of friends and family.
And now if I want to eat crisps for breakfast then I can. Not that it was me asking that question and at the time I was considering whether I would prefer a mars bar, someone else in the office liked cold curry, there was a vote for porridge and one for pizza and who are we to decide what is and isn’t right for someone elses life.