Thursday, November 1, 2012


One of the most challenging issues in my line of work, and therefore one of my favorite aspects of my line of work, is the fact that every day we face difficult questions that most people don’t usually have to consider.

Let me give you an example. Recently, the parents of somebody we serve at Imagine! contacted me voicing a concern that one of our providers had helped their daughter vote. They felt as if their daughter might not be capable of voting on her own and that perhaps she was manipulated into voting for a candidate she might not know anything about or an issue she didn’t understand. Just as often, parents will let us know that they want us to make sure that we do afford their son or daughter the opportunity to vote.

This opens up a whole host of questions. The woman was an adult and it was absolutely within her legal rights to vote. But is there a line that separates her voting for herself and somebody assisting her to vote? If so, where is that line? And who is to say if her vote is “legitimate” or not? There are an infinite number of reasons a person may vote one way or another, many of which aren’t exactly logical or well-informed. So is her vote any less “appropriate” because she happens to have a cognitive deficit? And who is responsible for making those kinds of determinations, anyway? This issue, as you can imagine, has plenty of legal opinion and history.

It may seem to some readers that the answers to the questions above are clear. But I promise that matter what response you give, I could present you with a scenario indicating that the opposite response would be just as viable a response.

Obviously, the questions above are pertinent for the election season. But we face similar questions at Imagine! all the time regarding where to draw the line on tricky life questions. Questions about faith, questions about sexuality, tattoos, ear piercings, or questions about alcohol or drug use, for example (all of which would be challenging questions in any situation), take on an extra level of complexity when an individual with developmental disabilities is involved. Some questions just aren’t that easy to answer.

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OK – sorry – but sometimes we have to step aside from the tougher questions for contemplation.

Imagine!’s mission does not go beyond our efforts to provide access to services for the individuals we serve. But those efforts are designed to facilitate community engagement, and community engagement cannot occur without the occasional complex moral and ethical decision making process. Solutions aren’t necessary cut and dried or black or white. But the process of coming up with solutions is the process that makes life so interesting. I’d love to hear thoughts from others on this.

Then again, what do I know?

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