It’s not every day that a project comes along with the potential to not only change what we assume accessibility looks like, but rearrange our whole paradigmatic thinking on disability and what exactly it constitutes. At March of Dimes Canada programs are set in place to do exactly this while promoting independence and dignity in their clients. The Vaughn Congregate Care Unit is now their most ambitious endeavour in the Greater Toronto Area, providing supportive housing for a number of people living with complex care issues. While this has been a plan over twelve years in the making, they are finally set to open doors this spring at the already established Reena Residence in Vaughan, just north or Toronto. Their support team has been in intense training for the big move and are now caring for the clients during pre-transition, housed in various locations and care facilities across the city. I should know – I am part of said staff.
Heading into the complex care until at the Holland Bloorview Kids Hospital is like entering a world that is slowly becoming more and more familiar to me. In between the countless tubes, hospital beds and ventilator alarms are our newest clients, all of whom have spent a majority of their life in this facility. They are, most understandably, excited and nervous about moving into a new apartment. Our job right now is to reassure them that this is a change for the better; it is an environment that allows for more independence and freedom. As we get to know each person more intimately, we begin to realize the true scope of this move. We have to stay confident so they can stay invested in this decision. This is no easy task.
Because of the dynamic nature of this program, our skills must broaden beyond just basic medical care. We must be able to respond to a variety of situations when multi-level support isn’t always available, establish a close relationship with each client to understand their individual needs and concerns, and build a community that values mutual support and social inclusion. This is why Vaughan Congregate Care is different and has the potential to force newer, more appropriate perspectives of disability.
For now, we’re still in the early stages of this innovative program. As I become better acquainted with my role at March of Dimes and my learning curve becomes steeper, I will blog my thoughts and experiences here – a new fish in a big sea. It’s about time I did something actual.