A Fundamental Dynamic – Power, Control, Empowerment

Achieving a meaningful life in the community – home, learning, working, and relationships – fundamentally involves dynamics of power and control. If people with developmental disabilities are supported to have homes of their own, engage in lifelong learning that enables them to participate in and contribute to community life, earn a living and contribute to the economy, and enter into real relationships, then, they gain power and control over their own lives and in the eyes of others. At the same time, the means by which people are supported must also enhance their power and control over their own lives. If having a meaningful life in the community is the outcome, then self determination is a fundamental way to achieve that outcome.

The development of community services and a commitment to a meaningful life in the community has involved ideas and practices that are at least intended to expand the scope of individual choice, power and control. Individual program and training plans started as pieces of technology that helped professionals organize their activities so that individuals received focused, coordinated and consistent support. Over time, however, those approaches evolved to focus on the desires of individuals, with the support of their families and friends, for the future. Approaches such as personal futures planning became tools whereby individuals and their supporters could organize supports toward their own individual ends.

Similarly, there have been significant shifts in the way that funding flows to support individuals. The bulk of government funding still funds service providing agencies and their programs. Significant changes however have emerged which permit individuals to have more and more control over how the funds they receive are used.