Watkins Glen, NY – – The Arc of Schuyler hosted nationally recognized attorney and the Senior Director and Counsel of AIM Services, Inc. in Saratoga Springs, Chris Lyons, to talk to support employees from several different developmental disability service provider agencies about how to improve the lives of people with disabilities by empowering them to be independent and take reasonable risks.
According to Lyons, “Direct Support Professionals are often good people who have a fear that if something happens to the people they support then they are bad Direct Support Professionals.” He went on to argue that this wasn’t true, and that in many cases, risk can be mitigated so that people with disabilities can live their lives to the fullest.
One example he gave was that of a person who wanted to go sledding. The man was paralyzed from the waist down, but the agency and his parents supported him going sledding with reasonable safety measures. Unfortunately, the man broke his leg. According to Lyons, “This is not the fault of the Direct Support Professional, or the agency, or the parents. Bad things happen and there is nothing you can do about it. It is better to allow people to participate in the activity and enjoy experience in their life than to completely disallow experiences in life.”
But where is the line drawn when it comes to people with disabilities taking risks? The answer according to Lyons is, “As long as you provide reasonable protection for a person, there is very little reason to draw lines on any opportunity. Even things like skydiving can become safe with reasonable protection.” He did admit however, that there were times where tighter evaluation is needed to gauge the risk and value of the activities.
Lyons rounded out the presentation with a final key statement. “When people with disabilities want to participate in an activity that may be difficult for them, we need to stop saying no and instead ask how? How can we help the people being supported safely reach their goals and not deny them all together?”
By the end of the presentation the point was clear: At the end of the day it isn’t about a direct support professional patting themselves on the back and saying, “I did great today.” It’s about the people being supported and their support staff saying to them, “You did great today.”