Here is a question for you - What is your definition of "Independence"???
I ask this because I am aware that the "Choice Unlimited" Roadshow is fast approaching - with its desire to empower Disabled people to live independently and make their own choices regarding how they live their own lives.
Society seems to have the idea that "Independence" means a Disabled person being abandoned and left to get on with it - either that or "Independence" is too dangerous to consider allowing Disabled people to have.
I could point you in the direction of a couple of my acquaintances who - on first sight - appear to be totally incapable of living an independent life but are actully capable (with a few adjustments - like a Personal Assistant) of almost having a fuller life than me.
However, independence doesn't just relate to the physical aspects of someone's life.
Independence is also connected with someone's thoughts. This can either be because of the barriers that people put in their way which may make the idea of leaving the house seem like an impossible dream, or because they just don't have the energy for the battle of wits which is sometimes required in order to convince a "normal" person that the Disabled person has - and knows - their own mind.
Trust me - I can still remember the struggles I had to convince someone (who shall remain nameless) that I knew all the consequences and risks involved in something I wanted to do - and that battle was over 10 years ago.
There was one chain of events which - even though I can laugh now as I look back on it - I found extremely insulting - not to mention puzzling.
A few years ago I recieved a letter from the NHS telling me that they had made an appointment for me with my GP to discuss Healthy Eating, etc. This appointment was apparently mandatory for me to attend. So off I trundled to my GP where I saw a rather surprised nurse. The reason for her surprise became startlingly obvious when she had spoken to me for a few minutes - apparently I had appeared on her list because I supposedly had "Learning Difficulties". Hmm - someone who can speak two languages, and find their way to a Doctors' surgery under their own steam (and having a complicated conversation with said nurse) having Learning Difficulties??? Someone had obviously made a mistake somewhere along the line.
They had indeed made a mistake - as I found out after I had made a rather indignant complaint. The reply I received to my complaint didn't even offer an apology - it just stated that due to the fact I had been a late developer when I was little I was still on their records as having these supposed Learning Difficulties. However, their records would be changed immediately. (I never got another letter of that type again.)
True independence means being able to do your own things and think your own thoughts - knowing there is help available when you need it. Not to forget the necessary fall back of knowing your complaints will be listened to and treated with the same respect as any "normal" person would expect.
I have been lucky enough to be able to travel abroad on my own - I don't think anything of going on long train journeys by myself. I know my own mind - and I am not afraid to speak up if something is not to my liking. Some people have had the dubious "honour" of finding out exactly how stubborn I can be when I really want to do something.
I want to leave you with a song which puts what I am trying to say here more eloquently than I will ever be able to.
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