I was glad to go on this outing, as I wanted to know first-hand how our staff provide support to the people we serve at IDS.
Our trip started at a local fast food restaurant where Lori has been faithfully working for more than ten years! She enjoyed a small lunch and chatted with me about her weight loss challenge--a friendly competition between herself and her Direct Support Professional. After lunch, we headed to the grocery store.
Lori and I traveled through the aisles searching for the items she had on her list. I marveled at how she was sure to find the healthiest choice for each item she needed. Low fat, whole grain, reduced calorie. I was impressed by her choices and her concern for her health. She was meticulous in checking the found items off her list as soon as they were placed in her cart.
This may all seem trivial to the average person who shops on a weekly, if not daily basis, but for Lori, this is her right to choose. I know I have taken that right for granted. I was filled with many emotions as I watched Lori, not shop, but display her independence.
You see, Lori is developmentally disabled, and up until "The Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Act of 1970", people like Lori were often placed in institutions. The law has been amended many times and now calls for individuals like Lori to be fully included in the community with an emphasis on self-sufficiency.
Instead of an institution, Lori lives in her own apartment and maintains steady employment. She helps plan her meals, cooks, and enjoys a healthy marriage. The one-on-one support services provided by IDS, including the grocery shopping trips, enrich Lori's life and empower her to achieve independence to the fullest extent of her abilities.
I am saddened to think of the thousands of individuals who were devalued, excluded, and disempowered prior to the de-institutionalization that occurred. Individuals, that today, could be thriving members of the community like Lori.
I am proud to be a part of this amazing team of passionate, caring individuals who have made it their life's work to better the quality of life for adults and families affected by disabilities and special needs.
My eyes were truly opened during that trip, and I try to remind myself when I'm in a long line at the store, that it's not just grocery shopping.