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A news magazine created to connect, inform & inspire
Issue: Fall 2022, Voices of IDD
Heart-shaped waffles are piled together with whipped cream and bright red cherries, all drizzled with cherry syrup.
Pam Blanton
Partners4Housing CEO

“Waffles.”

I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, this excited young man who had just received his Section 8 voucher. I was working as the IDD Housing Coordinator in Seattle at the time, and as I congratulated him on finally achieving this big step, I asked him what he was most excited about.

“Waffles!” he repeated, grinning from ear to ear.

His caregiver spoke up, with a smile nearly as big as the young man’s. “He’s so excited he can have waffles whenever he wants. He won’t have to wait for waffle day.”

Thanks to the voucher, this young man was about to move from a state-run institution into community-based housing. That one idea — choosing what he’d eat — was so powerful to him. To this day his reaction reminds me of the importance of choice in a fulfilled life.

What does living in community-based housing really mean? It’s all those little things we easily take for granted. You get to know your neighbors, you can choose your friends, you can go to the grocery store, you can choose what you want to eat, and how to spend your free time.

Choice and the nature of risk

Of course, with choice comes risk. Naturally, parents and caregivers want to keep their Loved Ones safe. Yet that urge to protect too often limits a person’s ability to choose. Limited choice means limited opportunities to learn from our mistakes … a natural process of evolving and creating a life we love.

“A sense of judgment is essential to our humanity. We make choices and face the consequences, both positive and negative,” the Arc of Burlington shares in their blog. “When you are allowed to fail, you are experiencing a wider range of human experience.”

The dignity of risk ... an important idea

“The concept of dignity of risk is the right of a person to make an informed choice to engage in experiences meaningful to him/her and which are necessary for personal growth and development,” explains this article from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Partnership for People with Disabilities. “Normal living often includes risks. Dignity of risk allows people to lead normal lives. Overprotecting people with disabilities keeps them from many life situations that they have the right to experience, and it may prevent meaningful connections and fulfillment of their hopes and dreams.”

In the daily scheme of things, choosing what to have for breakfast typically isn’t loaded with risk. Yet clearly, as this young man showed me, having the freedom to make that choice is huge.

We have a right to our mistakes, our wrong turns. We have a right to learn from the consequences or try new and even scary things. Creating an independent living solution for our Loved Ones provides an environment that dignifies their choices, while still being mindful of their needs for support.

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