New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense
The safety of children and adults with disabilities is paramount in the minds of many: family members, teachers, service providers, and others. A variety of different statistics indicate people with disabilities experience abuse (sexual, physical, verbal, etc.) at much higher rates than people without disabilities, so concerns for their safety are justified.
Unfortunately, the methods used to create a wall of safety around them have not always been effective, and may have even contributed to people being more vulnerable. Furthermore, the efforts of others to keep people safe may prevent them from being able to keep themselves safe. So let’s rethink this...
How do people without disabilities maintain their own safety? “Fight or flight” is the most primitive response to danger. You can choose to fight or run away; you can call out for help, too. You also make decisions every day to stay away from dangerous people and places, and ensure you’re with people and in places where you feel safe. Think of other things you do. Finally, adults teach children about “good touches and bad touches,” what to do if approached by a stranger, and more.
Now let's think about people with disabilities. If you cannot push yourself in a wheelchair, how can you get away from any danger . . . How could children or adults with disabilities call for help if they don’t speak and don’t have a communication device/system so they can communicate with any one at any time? Click here to continue.
If I had to do it over again, Benjamin would have had a power chair when he was two, so he could go on his own and be safe on his own. When he used a walker or his manual wheelchair (which he could push for only short distances and very slowly), someone needed to be close by. During this time, perfect strangers routinely got up-close-and-personal and patted him on the head, prayed over him, or hugged him (and maybe tried to cop a feel in the process)—things they would never do to a child who didn’t have a disability.