Editorial – Holidays and having fun – July 2015

Stephen Kealy

There is nothing like the sun to encourage people to wear bright clothes, go to the sea side, have fun – to do all those things only thought about during wet, dreary and cold winter weather. Part of the enjoyment of holidays is thinking about exotic places to visit with family and friends.

People with intellectual disabilities often talk about their friends – primarily family members, staff or people met during a befriending scheme. While there are many super and innovative initiatives to support people with an intellectual disability to participate more fully in the community, sustaining friendships through initiatives like circle of friends is often dependent on the goodwill of family or staff.

From time to time, outside of special Olympics, the adventure sport achievements of a person with an intellectual disability makes the headlines – a parachute jump – wall climbing – sailing – all achieved by support from parents, friends or staff. Unfortunately for many people with an intellectual disability, their opportunities for risk-taking are often curtailed by staff because of the restrictions of insurance underwriters, or by parents, because of perceived risk, lack of imagination or an understanding that the person is not in a position to give informed consent.

To go on a holiday, people with an intellectual disability may also have to fund, from their own resources, a support staff to accompany them – limiting choice and experiences. Yes, it is important to ensure people are safe but is there a better way of achieving the holiday goal without adding a cost disincentive?

Thankfully, there are more commercial organisations offering accessible holidays for people with disabilities. Challenging holidays requiring active participation but on the basis of an appropriate skill fit, from tall ship sailing to quiet lounging breaks with good food, recreational opportunities and lovely environments.

Taking time to involve the person with an intellectual disability in holiday planning provides an opportunity for teaching, learning, and the exercise of more autonomy – to have the person at the centre of the process.

Sarah Lennon of Inclusion Ireland, in her article on the progress of the proposed capacity legislation, flags some of the impact that legislation will have for decision making for people with an intellectual disability – essentially making sure that people take time out to hear what they want and to act accordingly – putting the person at the centre of a decision process. Is it possible that this legislation, when enacted, will enable greater risks to be taken by people with an Intellectual Disability or taken on their behalf? After so long maybe real change is in the air!

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