Independence and Control Are at Hand in the 21st Century
By John Young and Robert Mitchell, Independent Living Resource Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Profound and Effective change is often the result of identifying service gaps or adversity and seeking new and innovative methods to address these gaps. Independent Living Resource Centre’s (ILRC) (Winnipeg) Personal Attendant Community Education (PACE) program is a five-week training course wherein persons with disabilities train able-bodied individuals to become community-accredited Independent Living Attendants.
Founded on a tried-and-true, community-directed curriculum, PACE is the first program of its kind that is controlled and operated by the disability community and that embraces the Independent Living philosophy. PACE was designed to address the gaps in viable attendant support and has evolved to provide avenues to full participation in the community.
Home Care supports and government-scheduled attendant care programming were especially taxed at the time of PACE’s inception and, even now, the provision of attendants through PACE alleviates much burden on this system. As we all recognize, government-scheduled attendant care is a task-oriented system, whereas PACE is adaptable and offers broad-spectrum support. For PACE, it is the end user who is able to tap into the most versatile of products.
PACE is also a strong training program for newcomers to Canada, providing a path to gainful employment—not “stepping stone” job placement. Attendants receive competitive wages and benefits so highly sought-after for those wishing to make a stand and be active in the community.
PACE is, essentially, the result of a culture of “can’t.” People with disabilities often can’t volunteer or make it to a job interview; they can’t attend a social or professional function; they can’t get to a certain class for much-needed education because of issues with scheduling— for example, their government-scheduled attendant was late or failed to show up.
A community member can’t have peace of mind as much as the newcomer to Canada can’t receive proper professional credential recognition due to barriers in attitude. PACE is a valuable tool to address these barriers by providing community-trained attendants with back-up supports as well as employment and independence. PACE graduated its 600th attendant in 2010, and retains a 92 percent employment rate.
PACE graduates are employed in a variety of community living models and self/family managed care models—all programs which the consumer directs the supports needed. The waiting list for PACE participation extends beyond three full classes and over 4,000 volunteer hours for community trainers and consumers.
ILRC was fortunate enough to lay the groundwork for PACE in a province that is forward-thinking in matters of disability and accessibility. The Home Care program in Manitoba is considered one of the best in Canada, yet PACE still fills the gap in available attendant supports. As Manitoba begins the development of legislation designed to promote and facilitate inclusion, PACE will become an even more important piece to the movement.
PACE continues to be recognized both nationally and globally as a vital new support mechanism for inclusion for persons with disabilities. Its scope has appeal for a growing senior population as well, given the stress on Personal Care Homes and the general desire to remain at home, in the community, indefinitely. The rising “Silver Tsunami” of retiring baby boomers have made it clear that they would like to live in the community and not in any form of institution. We are grateful for the Province of Manitoba’s recognition of PACE as a resource for these growing communities.
PACE is seen as a viable solution to a heavily burdened attendant support system in any province. Cost savings, quality attendant training, employment and volunteer opportunities are coveted everywhere. We have attracted the attention of a variety of centres across Canada that wish to alleviate taxed systems. One example of this growing network of support and interest is the Alberta Spinal Cord Injury Task Team who approached ILRC for information on the mechanisms of PACE.
The process of community-directed training highlights the accomplishments and expertise of the disability community in Manitoba. It demonstrates the strength of our network in providing peace of mind for partners across Canada. Where PACE will take us now depends on the strength of community ownership. We have reached a point in Canadian disability community history where the general public and government recognize and purchase the services of this dynamic community—a community rich with experience in social policy and business, but a community that has been largely overlooked and under-utilized for far too long.