The week of September 14 is proclaimed national Direct Support Professionals Week in honor of those who provide support services for individuals with developmental, intellectual, and other disabilities. Originally designated by the U.S. Senate in 2008, Direct Support Professionals Week is celebrated across the country. Direct support professionals provide essential supports which allow these individuals to live in their community, rather than in an institution. Direct Support Professionals provide skilled and compassionate supports for clients and regularly advocate for them in the community. The following story, experienced by an HCRS staff member, illustrates the stigma that people with disabilities encounter every day.
As a young Direct Support Professional, Bill worked for a local agency that ran a Day program for individuals with developmental disabilities. His position included providing skill building activities or taking clients out into the community. He was naive and new to the culture of supporting individuals in a community setting. The term “mainstreaming” had yet to be spoken. Bill vividly remembers taking three clients to a local restaurant for lunch. Once they were seated, the waitress handed him a menu. When she returned, she asked him what everyone wanted for lunch. It was then that he realized she was looking to him to order for everyone at the table. Bill instantly realized that his job would involve more than supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. He would also need to be able to educate community members about the abilities of individuals with disabilities.
According to national statistics, roughly 4.6 million Americans have either an intellectual or developmental disability. HCRS serves approximately 500 individuals through its Developmental Services program each year. In addition to the community supports offered by HCRS, the Agency also supports 52% of its Developmental Services clients with on-the-job employment supports. These critical services allow these individuals to be gainfully employed, contributing members of society.
HCRS will be recognizing its Direct Support Professionals during the week of September 14 with tokens of appreciation and a celebratory luncheon. If you know someone who works with people with disabilities, please reach out and thank them for what they do. Direct Support Professionals deserve to be recognized for the challenging work they do, from teaching skills to supporting individuals in the community. HCRS staff also advocate for the individuals they support – an aspect of their work that is truly rewarding.