Ensuring Human Rights
Members of our 3Rs research team undertook a human rights awareness survey with one of our community partners to investigate the types of rights restrictions that typically occur in the everyday lives of people with intellectual disabilities who are supported in community services.(Gosse, et al., 2002; Griffiths, et al, 2003). The goal of a system-wide survey such as this is to stimulate reflection, discussion, review and revision of Association policies and procedures and to identify areas for training and staff support. This survey is a tool to assist agencies to examine areas where improvement can be made to enhance the rights and the opportunities for individuals to assert their rights. If it is misused against staff or individuals within the agency it can violate trust and damage important lines of communication. However, if it is used in a partnership with members of the Board of Directors, management, staff members, and individuals supported by the agency, it becomes a vehicle for powerful positive social change.
The 3Rs system-wide rights survey (Gosse, et al., 2002) was developed in collaboration with individuals supported by Community Living Welland Pelham and their staff. The Human Rights Survey consists of 80 items. Participants rate each item using a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from disagree (1) to agree (5). Lower scores are indicative of a perception of greater human rights restrictions.
Three parallel survey forms were designed to ask the same 80 questions to three different groups within an agency: the individual being supported by the organization, the primary staff person supporting that individual, and all support staff in residential services. Each survey form asked the same questions with slight wording changes to make the survey form appropriate to those completing it.
Survey forms were sent to: (a) primary staff who had been approved by individuals to make comments about them and (b) support staff in all residential settings. The staff survey forms were returned anonymously by mail. Interviews regarding the survey forms were conducted with individuals supported by the agency who consented and who were able to participate. Two interviewers conducted the interviews.
Surveys such as this provide a forum for open, dynamic, and ongoing dialogue about human rights issues. They also challenge organization members to examine the very nature of service delivery, including current practice, policy and procedures, and staff/individual training. The survey can serve as a baseline to establish mechanisms that can reinforce and maintain a systemic emphasis on rights protection, such as prompting review of policy and procedures, developing strategic planning related to rights promotion, forming a Human Rights Facilitation Committee to review existing rights restrictions and initiating a system-wide Human Rights Training Program for staff, managers, members of the Board of Directors and the individuals who participate in the agencies (Owen et al, 2003).
It is important to recognize that the number of rights infringements identified through a survey of this nature does not determine that an agency is providing poor service or that the people supported by the organization have a poor quality of life. The fact that agency staff, managers and the individuals they serve have chosen to be open them to scrutiny suggests an organizational culture of commitment to continuous improvement of services. Yet the fact remains that rights restrictions do occur in agencies. Therefore, it is critical that each rights restriction be reviewed (e.g., ensuring people are offered an opportunity to vote, to choose with whom they associate, etc.).
As service systems move toward more person-centered planning, evaluation of human rights and the protection of those rights must become embedded in the culture of individualized agency support. At the conclusion of this survey Community Living Welland Pelham adopted a strategic plan to move the agency fully toward person-centred planning.
(From "Human Rights: A Method for a Community-Based Organization Self-Evaluation" by Griffiths, D., Owen, F., Gosse, L., Stoner, K., Tardif, C. Watson, S., Sales, C., & Vyrotsko, B., (2004). Journal on Developmental Disabilities, 10 (2), 25-42.)
Funding and Partnerships
The community university research alliance is a rich association of both community partners and university partners committed to a common agenda: the advancement of human rights for persons who have intellectual disabilities.
The 3Rs Project has been supported by Community Living Welland Pelham and the following:
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research
- The Ontario Trillium Foundation
- Employment Ontario
- Brock University
In partnership with:
- Community Living Fort Erie
- Community Living Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln
- Community Living St. Catharines
- Community Living Port Colborne-Wainfleet
- Niagara Support Services
- Niagara Training & Employment Agency Inc.
- Adult Protective Service Worker Program - Family Counseling Centre Niagara
- Niagara Regional Police Service