Inclusive practitioners for people with disabilities

03/12/2022 0 Comments

Hello, lovely readers and welcome to another edition of Caring About Sex and Disability.  

First off, I gotta say, “Happy International Day of People with Disabilities!”  If you are disabled or chronically ill, I see you.  You are valid and important and deliciously disabled!  

On the blog this month, I want to answer a couple questions: How can we get clinicians and professionals that we work with to be more inclusive to people with disabilities?   What are some tangible solutions to make that happen?  

I thought that this would be a perfect way to bring professionals together in allyship around disability, while giving them digestible options to be anti-ableist.  These tips will be great for occupational therapists or talk therapists and Social workers too.  

So, let’s get comfy, cosy and crippled and dive right in!

1. Confront Your Own Ableism as a Clinician/Professional

One of the best ways that we can find transformative solutions that include disabilities, is to first and foremost confront your own ableism as a professional.  If you are an occupational therapist and a new client asks you about therapeutic options to have better sex, consider what you might tell them.  Think about whether or not that question makes you feel uneasy and interrogate why it does.    

Another area of professionalism that needs to confront its own ableism is talk therapy.  So many therapists that I have worked with in the past have been very kind, but so many of their solutions have been rife with ableism.  (No, I can’t just take a walk to feel better, because I have to consider accessibility at every turn.)   If you are a therapist, consider your able privilege in the things that you are offering clients.  It may also be wise to ask disabled people ways in which your therapy can be anti-ableist.

As I was researching this, I found an article about how social workers can be more accessible to disabled folks and they said, “recognise that you and the disabled person you are working with are on equal playing fields”.   Yes, I would agree (in part), BUT I would also say it is important to recognise that you as the social worker are not equal in terms of your privileges and ability level.  Recognising that at the beginning of each session is very important, I feel.  Just a thought. 

2. Listen to Disabled People 

I feel like one of the most important things that so many professionals who work or who want to work with disabled folks often forget, is to listen to disabled people when they tell you something important.  This is a tip that might seem a little too easy, but wow, it is often completely underutilis

ed. One of the only ways that we can truly transform social justice is to listen to disabled people, even when doing so makes us feel uncomfortable.  

One of the best ways to do that is to hire a Disability Awareness Consultant or a disabled advisory committee in your OT practice, therapeutic practice, etc., and pay them to guide you on ways to be anti-ableist in what you do.   The benefits of listening to disabled people in your professional capacity is that their lived experiences will give you ideas that you can use every single day, that you may not have considered otherwise.  How cool is that?! 

3. Adapt Your Policies As Your Disabled Clients’ Needs Change 

One of the best ways to be transformative and anti-ableist in your practice is to keep your policies and procedures flexible as your clients’ needs change. Access needs can change daily (sometimes by the hour), for your disabled client and so should your policies and procedures (within reason). 

For example, if you have a policy that you need to be paid on the 1st of the month, but your client’s disability support doesn’t come in until the 4th, consider being flexible that way. If you usually meet clients in person, offer a virtual or text option.  Have a disabled person (or the advisory board that you’re gonna hire full of disabled folks) review your policies and consider where flex accommodations might work. 

I hope these 3 Caring Crip Tips give you some tangible ideas on how we can bridge the gap between disabled and non-disabled people in the professional arena.  

I care about you all, and I’ll see you next time! 

Andrew Gurza 

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