“Fairness does not mean that everybody gets the same, fairness means that everybody gets what they need.”
- Rick Lavoie
I was introduced to Rick Lavoie back in the 1980s. Although his focus is Special Education, I believe his philosophies translate well to service for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) of all ages, and I continue to look to him as an inspiration for my own view of how we as a society should be serving this population.
Rick takes a pragmatic approach to services, advocating for them to be delivered in a relevant, realistic, and stimulating manner using a pervasive educational philosophy. While that may be easier said than done, the outcomes we hope for those we serve (fulfilling lives of independence in their homes and communities) demand that we embrace this more difficult route.
One part of Rick’s philosophy in particular has always stuck with me – his idea of fairness. He states that, “‘fairness’ is not equal, identical treatment; rather, ‘fairness’ means that every student receives what he needs. Because each individual's needs are different, ‘fairness’ dictates that their programs and expectations will be different.” Check out the video below to see him explain it himself.
So why am I talking about this today? Well, right now some of our country’s leaders are trying to move forward with a health care plan that poses great risk to individuals with disabilities who use Medicaid funds for vital services and supports. I fear that one reason for this is that too many people making these decisions have the wrong idea of what “fairness” is, and the result of this misunderstanding will be that the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” in our communities will widen, to the great detriment of those on the wrong end of that equation.
When speaking of fairness, how difficult can this be?
Then again, what do I know?