Imagine you’re a person with a disability with mental health challenges as a result of an abusive family. Do not apply alcohol and drugs to this picture. Weed does not count as a controlled substance in this case. Just imagine you want to tell your family goodbye or commit suicide and don’t know where to turn, then get punished for speaking out. So what do you do?
The Disability Recovery Model is something I’m about to show you and it works with sensory and motor disabled individuals who are not using bad or overused chemicals such as alcohol or heroin. Sit back, and listen now as I envision what recovery should look like for mistreated disabled mental patients.
For a blind patient, all recovery materials, including twelve step guides, nursing educational brochures and other things should be in accessible formats. Since in patient facilities oftentimes do not permit use of the Internet, this sadly only applies to out patient recovery programs. For those in residential rehab, however, this rule must be changed so a blind patient can use the best, and only the best cutting edge tech, their own preferably that they can supply, on the Internet that is accessible from anywhere in the facility. Since materials in print such as a guided diary card/journal may not be suitable for blind individuals or those with very low vision, I recommend that all recovery programs should allow portable notetakers and computers in the hands of patients with print disabilities, and recovery materials should also be in Braille hard copy or plain Braille formats for note takers. IF this isn’t done, or if there’s policy against computer usage, change it so exceptions don’t have to be made for one person in a blue moon.
For these same patients, it should be seen as taboo for guardianship to be commenced. IF something like it is in place, therapists should assess why it was put in place, realizing that because of the high abuse rate among disabled children and adults, acceptance should be aggressively pursued by parents, treatment professionals, and those in charge of recovery programs in the community. Disabled people have disabilities, and should be given resources outside their community that can aid in independent training if, for example, they don’t want a state run facility with dormy conditions and possibly aggressive males living next door. While the NFB trainng centers are overpromoted for the polished but inaccurate image they hold, resources such as those should be ranked number 1, audited for how they deal with blind patients in both twelve step recovery and out patient counseling programs. CCB, for instance, located in Littleton, Colorado, has a counselor on site sometimes that visits people for adjustment reasons once per week for an alotted time. Louisiana’s center in Ruston may not have all the resources it needs to help combat the high abuse rate of disabled adults and children, and it doesn’t help that Louisiana as a state may have Napoleonic law and offensive maneuvers in place to close its doors to LGBTQIA disabled and nondisabled people alike. Minnesota’s Blindness Learning In NEw Dimensions or BLIND Inc., has more immigrants, who may bring harmful traditions to American soil. One thing the state and Minneapolis do have, to their credit, is central transportation, and could have fertile ground for LGBT folks, but it must be a place of welcoming and material support to recovery patients whose physical lives are being abused and neglected every day.
The Littleton center to its credit is located in the heart of Liberal Colorado, where marijuana is legal, but it does have a harmful policy against weed usage because of federal funds. If marijuana is legalized federally, we should demand that all landlords and facilities for the disabled allow the use of weed for all occasions, except for during class times as in the case of CCB. Weed and other medicinals have been known to relieve seizures and glaucoma pressures in one’s eye. Blind people are notorious for having headaches and migraines due to glaucoma. Why not relieve that pressure without expensive pharmacological medication that could cost too much! Marijuana has some medicinal value, so if you’re government officials reading this blog, do something and legalize marijuana if not for tax dollars, for the glaucoma and epilepsy patients in true recovery.
In the case of blind patients, therapists should be treating the patient not like someone else’s problem as in the case of LaAmistad in Winter Park Florida’s Orlando region, but as viable citizens with potential to do great things. Protecting patients with rules and prohibitions could hinder a blind person’s ability to deal with real world things. A blind patient who cuts should not necessarily be denied acces to food cutlery but should be decoded, properly assessed for self injurious behaviors, and if the culprit is hindering family, they should be told outright that they’re the culprit whether they pay for your services or not. My family is a classic example, but I had no self injury behavior that led to bleeding, however, during rehabilitative recovery programs I’ve seen, the food was fattening and we weren’t allowed real kitchen utensils. We were also ironically forced to use blue Biq razors for shaving, both men and women, however, BIQ is a dangerous disposable brand and disabled people should be allowed to opt out of this. IF a patient has injurious behaviors that lead to cutting, bleeding, etc., a bloodless razor should be what you use. So what if Biq was cheap? Cheap shavers aren’t good for anyone, so don’t force them on your clients with disabilities or any other people. Show the disabled client the proper use of the razor, hand over hand, but never shave for them for fear they could cut themselves. These tips apply mostly to in patient recovery clients with blindness.
For all patients in and out who are blind, travel and meetings should be encouraged, not discouraged. LaAmistad forbade me from visiting old friends in recovery when they left, and that hurts. Disabled patients would benefit from going places alone, as they will have to do so at work, in school, and to meet with attorneys. Blind patients being supervised is too stereotypical unless they are physically sick and truly unable to support themselves walking. Going on group tours and trips with visual arts in mind should be strictly assessed for its ability to meet the blind patient’s needs for being able to perceive the information presented. Never say that a blind patient has a strong sense of entitlement. This is dangerous to the recovery efforts they are making, and oftentimes advocacy for things like going to blind friendly locations for outings is mistaken for entitlement or being exceptionally grandiose. This is also dangerous as it can destroy the voices of these marginalized mental health patients, who are likely to reenter a world where they can’t get jobs, can’t find folks to teach them Braille, or cane travel, a world where their children could be stolen from them due to their disabling blindness supposedly plus mental health. In recovery circles, it should be discouraged for courts and social workers to disband a family. I as a blind person will not allow my family access to my children because they did all of the above bad things such as accuse me of being entitled, discouraged advocacy, and isolated and drugged me for being human at all. Recovery isn’t just counseling and drugs for a blind patient. Independence and family support make a difference. HEre’s an example. I’ve said enough about me, but you should know that family support is lacking for the wedding funds. I’m considering selling things to pay for wedding accessories, and all because family won’t do their duty as tradition dictates they pay for the bride and her dress and wedding ceremony and all. However, Jennifer, who lives in Littleton, received family support when she married her blind husband. They now have a little boy, employment being for both parents, and housing that supports the family.
Jennifer’s job and independence come as a result of family support, encouragement, and positive development of independence training skills as a child. No recovery patient is ever afforded anything like this, and this must be done.
WHile blindness is a low incidence disability, I’d like to turn my attention to deaf and deafblind individuals. A deaf person should be allowed access to sign language interpreters or therapists who signn if the deaf person can see. Hearing aids for the hearing impaired should be mandatory allowances and no deaf person should be discouraged from their use. Deafblind individuals should never have communicative access issues in both in and outpatient treatment. They must be given Braille equipment such as the Deaf Blind Communicator from HumanWare. This is just one example of a tool that opens the world to deafblind individuals.
Mobility impaired individuals must be allowed all the basic rights as someone on the outside, just as blind patients should be allowed to explore their communities unaided unless they’re paralyzed and unable to use a cane with a wheelchair. All wheelchair users should be given full and complete acces to private baths and toileting areas. All toilets and showers in group facilities for regular recovery patients should be forcibly fitted with bars and the showers should be made wider. All doorways should be made wider and no stairs should be implemented. Your facility should have ramps to go in and out of the building as well as a ramp to go upstairs to another floor if your facility is small. However, if a facility is large, it is mandatory that elevators be put in place. All bedrooms should be equipped with wide doorways, bars in limited capacity for climbing on and off beds, and low desks and dressers. Architectural barriers should never be present because the last thing a person who is mobility impaired needs is to have to crawl in to bed, not being able to transfer to their wheelchair.
OF course, for all patients in recovery, sexual aggression should never be enabled, however a sexual relationship with one’s partner should be greatly encouraged. Marital counseling should be given a dose of equality based training for any able bodied spouse who feels entitled to abuse. Of course, if you work with domestic violence victims, there are great resources available for said disabled battered wives or other such victims. Women’s shelters should follow all the guidelines for accessibility to all types of disabilities and resources should reflect access issues the patients face.
While applied behavior analysis is abusive to autistic people, there are more positive support mechanisms that treatment providers can use to help autistics cope with trauma. Demonstrating proper use of differing things should be priority number one. However, foods that overwhelm autistic people should be assessed according to patient need, not banned for all clients. Blind autistics could be bombarded with sensory consistencies when eating certain foods. When recovery is implemented for autistics suffering abuse at the hands of family, treatment providers, or home care providers, it should be duly noted that evaluating what foods overwhelm individual patients can lead to better results and practices. Punishment for autistics is not something any treatment provider should allow. Autistics in schools should be given positive behavioral supports at home, but if child welfare providers see otherwise, parents should be removed from the picture so that the autistic child can be placed in a loving adoptive home where supports are in place. If an autistic person is blind, hands on crafts instead of drawing should be implemented in therapy. Art for all is a good thing, whether a patient is autistic or not.
I hope this model serves as a bullwork for treatment providers and families alike because I went through Hell. But keep in mind that taking rights from a person with a disability should be gravely discouraged, as recovery should focus on the bigger picture, what will happen when the person’s family dies? Guardians only steal money and kill their clients, so a therapist should serve as an advocate for a disabled patient. All disabilities are not necessarily justifiable reasons for guardianship. Down’s Syndrome patients should be told freedom is a good thing, and women with this condition face more rape than most others. IF you have support groups for all disabilities for patients in recovery, do divulge these resources and encourage the growth and implementation of said groups without judgment which is dangerous. Judgment and negativity should not be tolerated. I’ll discuss what the ideal self help and recovery group looks like for persons with disabilities in a later post, so if you have anything to add to the model I just proposed, comment here.