Choice and control are often regarded as key goals for people with impairments to achieve and they have been key campaigning issues for the independence living movement for many years. While I agree that choice and control are important to the process of inclusion, they are only a stepping stone to the real outcomes we wish to achieve. There is little point having choice and control if it is not used to achieve a greater outcome.
Choice and control is both a right and a responsibility we have as citizens of society. There is no such thing as free choice as every decision we make has consequences in one way or another. The choices we can make in the real world will be restricted by a number of factors including time, resources, required outcomes like having food or the impact on others. While I do not sign up to the idea of good and bad choices, as that is a decision we must make for ourselves, some decisions we make will have negative consequences for ourselves and others. Sometimes we are faced with having to choose between two or more options that all have negative consequences to some degree.
I believe the choice and control rhetoric of the independent living movement faces the same problems that is related to the disability sector, which is a low expectations of what people with impairments can and should achieve. While many professionals in the field have claimed to have embrace choice and control, I believe they have tried to manage choice and control by ensuring the users of their services appear to have they illusion of choice and control. In offering their uses ‘safe’ choices that have little consequences, they can make users feel good about themselves, and tick the box, without actually achieving anything.
I am the kind of person who wants to see choice and control for people with impairments to be taken as far as it can , so everyone can have the full autonomy that I enjoy, with all the ups and downs. The problem is I believe the choice and control of people with impairments, particularly those with higher support needs, are restricted by many factors including the influence of their family and the staff around them, a poor education, and fundamentally a system of services that requires them to stay disempowered and therefore unable to make meaningful choices.
The expectations of the choice and control agenda has to increase and become focused on achieving meaningful outcomes. I have lost count of how many youtube videos I have seen where individuals with impairments are celebrating they have choice and control in a manner that shows they still lack full autonomy. I believe we should instead be celebrating the achievements people have made in diverse ways because they simply used the choice and control they have. Choice and control should become so normal and everyday to everyone, it is not something we need to celebrate.