Safety PlanningWhy This Is Important
Many segregated buildings and programs have been constructed over the years in order to keep people with disabilities "safe." Some were constructed to keep community members safe from the perceived threat of people with disabilities. Since those days, it has come to be understood that people with disabilities have the same right to a full life as all other citizens. People have the right to make choices, to take risks, and to live with the consequences of bad decisions. At the same time, individuals with disabilities are often vulnerable, and can easily be taken advantage of by others in many ways, including physically, sexually, criminally and financially. Some research indicates that 70% to 80% of women diagnosed with mental retardation have been taken advantage of sexually. In the larger cultural view, at this time in history, the safety of people with disabilities is in jeopardy in many major ways. They are vulnerable to medical decisions that their life is not worth saving, to Kevorkian-like decisions to terminate life, and to inequities in the justice system that make them vulnerable to admitting to crimes they did not commit. In everyday life, it is challenging to balance the rights to make choices and to take reasonable risks with keeping people safe without impairing those rights. What "safe" and "risk" means for each individual, whether they have a disability or not, is also unique. For instance, some people would never live in New York City because it is not safe, some people who do live there never take the subway, and some people never go out at night -- all different definitions of "safe." People assert their right to smoke cigarettes, despite the health risks. Many people with diabetes assert to right to eat food that is not good for them -- again, a unique definition of "safe" for that person. In this department you will find information and materials on creative ways to balance the rights of choice and risk, with planning for safety unique to that person. There is also information on the larger issues of safety, such as sexual abuse and the criminal justice system.