GUBU-Grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented. Who would have thought that a government would allow itself again to be in such a position—and yet that is exactly what happened. If a decision was made, for example, on the basis of gender, to reduce the earnings of women, there would be, and rightly so, a tsunami of outrage from every corner of the country. Well maybe not from everyone— some Neanderthal decision.maker may be lurking in the long grass operating the principles of GUBU.
How else could you possibly explain a decision to cut support to people with disabilities to have full and meaningful lives in the community, while at the same time publicly acknowledging the achievements of all our paralympic athletes. Such achievements are hard-won and supported by many, particularly family, friends, paid carers and, of course, personal assistants. Are some decision makers, because of their abilities, just simply incapable of ‘walking in the shoes’ of people with disabilities? Do they lack the empathy to appreciate the effort it takes to do something small without assistance—to move a hand or a finger or to change the position of one’s body.
This issue of Frontline has an educational theme. Yet again, decisions are made that do little to continue active and personal support for people with disabilities in the educational system—decisions that may even be harbingers of worst things to come. Is there an understanding of how difficult it is for a child with an intellectual disability in a mainstream class to track an extended explanation in the classroom if there is not someone available to mediate that experience? Is there an understanding of the need to minimise confusion so that a person with an intellectual disability can learn at his or her own developmental level? Is there an appreciation of the need to constantly review the teaching approach vis a vis evidence-based research? We know IT can enhance the learning experiences of all children, but particularly children with disabilities. Is this understanding reflected in classrooms and in teacher training colleges? Is there an investment in educational research that will bridge classroom practice with international understandings?
Relationship is an essential component of progress and achievement. The medal-winning paralympians, without exception, linked their success to the close relationships established between carers, their parents, brothers and sisters, extended family, personal assistants, friends and many other people in their lives. This understanding was reiterated by all who gave interviews about the joy of their participation and all of them, including those who did not gain medals, were winners. The educational supports for people with disabilities have to foster and support effort, no matter how small and, yes, it does require continuing investment.
Thankfully, that GUBU decision has since been partially reversed — but will similiar such decisions continue to be made at the expense of disabled and vulnerable people because they are seen as soft options?
Issue 87 saw the re.publication of an article by Owen Doody, Maria Bailey and Rosemary Lyons, ‘Primary care for persons with intellectual disabilities: Issues for practice. The article was re-published to focus attention once again on the health and well-being of people with intellectual disabilities living in the community, a meaningful living option significantly under threat, given the group think of the HSE and government on reducing, even possibly irreversibly eroding, essential supports which have been so hard won.