We’re spending too long ‘getting ready’

March 9, 2021

David Corner has spent 12 years representing people with intellectual disabilities internationally. He has spent 24 years promoting their rights in New Zealand.

But when the bathroom in the house he owns was renovated last year, he didn’t get to choose the paint, or the vinyl that went on the floor.

David, IHC National Self-Advocacy Adviser, recently gave presentations about self-advocacy at Regional Focus Groups in Auckland, Hamilton, Kāpiti and Christchurch to encourage people with disabilities to speak up about how they want to live their lives.

This was the second round of Regional Focus Groups organised by the IDEA Services Quality Team.

“It’s important to speak up about the things that are important to you,” he told participants at the Kāpiti forum. “IDEA Services needs to hear back from you about what is working well for you in services and what needs to be improved. It is the staff’s role to help you make the choices.”

He fears that people’s confidence can be easily eroded. “We don’t give them confidence. We set them up to fail,” he says. “There is a ‘readiness trap’ sometimes. ‘You are not ready to go flatting. You are not ready to go and talk to such and such’.”

David asked those at the meeting whether they answered the phone in their homes and were able to choose what they ate or what television channel they watched. He reminded them that it was their right to have support to make decisions, but people sometimes confused the line between acting in someone’s best interests and allowing them to exercise their will and preference, which was a right protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

David, who lives at home supported by another service provider, told of the time a new team leader turned up at his house unannounced. “My support worker didn’t let me know he was coming until two minutes before he turned up – and it was my house.”

He said last year he was planning a party and saw emails between two people asking if his house was accessible. “It’s my house, but no one asked me if my house was accessible.” As far as his bathroom renovation went, David acknowledged that he did get a photograph of the chosen vinyl sent to him, but said he had no opportunity to have input.

In November, David signed off from his job as Asia-Pacific Regional Representative for international disability organisation Inclusion International. At his final meeting he was awarded life membership for his service.

It was a role that took him around the world – to Florida, Germany, Nepal, Washington, Portugal, Spain, Suva, Thailand, India and Australia.

At meetings and conferences David participated in brainstorming sessions about the issues facing people with intellectual disabilities in all parts of the globe and was able to contribute New Zealand’s and his own experiences to the mix. “It’s all about listening, including and respecting and valuing the people with intellectual disability,” he says.

Helen Sinclair, IHC’s National Manager Quality, says David delivered some important self-advocacy messages at the meetings. “His views prompted some great discussions with participants about what good support looks like and the ways people can speak up and be supported to raise issues that matter most to them.” The Quality Team intends to share the views of the focus groups throughout the organisation and to get more people involved in 2021. 

Caption: David Corner, IHC National Self-Advocacy Adviser, says self-advocacy is about listening, including and respecting and valuing people with intellectual disabilities.