Making an Informed Choice

At a time when society enjoys unprecedented access to information at the click of a button, how come our disability service system does such a poor job of ensuring people with disabilities make decisions based on informed choice?

Informed choice cannot be made simply by the presentation of information. There is a human element involved, like options counseling. How do we ensure that we are truly listening to the person? How do we present information in an unbiased manner when it is human nature to have biases? Have we asked ourselves “am I trying to influence the person’s decision?” Am I protecting the person from making a bad choice? Can I do justice presenting all of the information and choices if I have personal and professional experience in only one area of specialty? Am I oversimplifying or generalizing the information if I try to present all the options?

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Is my work environment universally designed?

I walked around my office today to see if it incorporated elements of universal design. Although we have a long (long) way to go, I was able to give a couple “thumbs up!”

To enter our office, there is an accessible entrance button that staff and visitors who use wheelchairs can use to automatically open the door. This is also a great feature for people whose hands are full and cannot reach the handle and who need the extra time the door stays open to pull the hand dolly through loaded with boxes.

All of the individual office and bathroom doors have a lever style handle instead of a knob making it easy for anyone to open a door. Our lights have been dimmmed so they are not as harsh (athough I think that may be only because our lazy landlord hasn’t replaced burned out bulbs).

And, we have several rolling computer cart stations that can be raised for those who need more height because of wheelchairs or beer guts!

We have libraries for those who want to get their text fix — lots of books and journals. A couple of our projects have developed on-line learning modules for professionals and parents – they incorporate slides, videos, audio, quizes, etc. We have a smart board – but no one really has been trained to use it! We also have capability to bring people who work off site into staff meetings through phone, video and things like ‘go to meeting’ – again, few take advantage of the technology. We have a fairly static website and I don’t think we put any staff time into our facebook or twitter accounts. We are missing out on reaching new audiences!

Wow!

Like a blog virgin….My first time blogging.  This should prove to be an interesting experience!

A personal learning story

One of my class assignments is to post about a recent learning experience – the what, how and depth of the experience.  Over the past three months, I’ve had lots of new opportunities to learn more about a couple of topics for which I was already familiar. (yes, my summer was all work and no play – well, there were the conferences in New Orleans and Virginia Beach). One related to writing a grant proposal about how states should support families of children with disabilities.  Part of our grant application involved proposing the development of a virtual community of practice among stakeholders across six states.  I found some really interesting articles on this topic, particularly from the education world and how teachers were using virtual CoPs to increase their effectiveness in classrooms.  How far wev’ve come in our ability to reach out instantaneously beyond our co-workers!  All of the learning for this experience was text based on the Internet which was okay as I am stuck in the middle of the digital divide.  I know enough about the lingo – apps, social media, wikis, RSS feeds, etc. – to sound cool, but really don’t know what I am doing!  In my continued search of virtual CoPs, I came across one for practitioners interested in person-centered thinking populated by people from at least 4 countries.  Very cool.  This seriously energized my interest as I learn best hands on – joining and jumping in…like this blogging experience!  So, whether we are funded or not (I’ll know in 2 weeks), my brain is perculating all kinds of ideas on how to start a virtual CoP using facebook, blogs, videos, del.icio.us, etc.