BECKY’S STORY: Independent Living in an Age of Group Homes
As a child, doctors told Becky’s mother that her daughter would be “a vegetable” for the rest of her life. During the 1950s, when Becky was born, few if any legal protections were available to those with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD), especially in the south. This stigmatized understanding of the I/DD community created incredible barriers including, but not limited to, the internalized belief that those with cognitive disabilities could not live an independent life.
And yet today, Becky lives alone in her own apartment. So how did Becky’s life trajectory change from being perceived as incompetent to living in and maintaining her own space? Well, first of all, Becky is passionately committed to doing as much as she can on her own. Sweeping her floor, feeding her beloved pet birds, and doing her own laundry brings her a sense of empowerment she was stripped of as a child. Second, due to the significant development of disability rights through federal rulings such as Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the American Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, discrimination based on one’s abilities was finally made unconstitutional. And because of social movements that pressured the government to act on behalf of marginalized communities, Becky now legally has access to the same rights and resources as those provided to others which includes access to independent housing.
And finally, Becky has access to supportive services that allow her to live independently. Although not always, many people with disabilities need additional support to continue an independent lifestyle. For Becky, this looks like support scheduling doctors appointments, receiving transportation to the grocery store, or setting up her phone. These day-to-day activities are often partnered with a Direct Service Professional (DSP), a professional trained in providing in person supports as needed. The Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham is one such organization that helps connect people with DSPs so that they can live the life they want.
To get a peek into Becky’s world and to see how The Arc supports her, check out her video here.
To help create “A Life Like Yours” (ALLY), get connected with The Arc by volunteering, donating, or advocating.