Some signs that a place might be an institution

andreashettle:

realsocialskills:

Lack of accomodation for disability:

  • An organization workign with disabled or elderly or sick people ought to have a clue about access and adaptability
  • If they don’t, it’s a major red flag
  • Some examples:
  • If there are a lot of people who need wheelchairs, and none of them have personally-fitted chairs, that’s a red flag. If everyone is using an institutional wheelchair, it’s probably an institution
  • If there are a lot of residents who have limited use of their hands, and no one has any adaptive equipment for doing things like changing TV channels, it’s probably an institution

People conflate patient/client opinions with family opinions

  • For instance, if they claim that everyone there wants to be, but then they only talk about what family members say about it
  • If it’s a place people can be put into by their family members without any attempt made to see if they consent
  • If all the information on a website is for family members or social workers, and none of it is directed at people who might live in or get services from a place, it’s probably an institution

If people need staff assistance or permission to contact the outside world

  • If people who can use phones independently don’t have access to phones without asking first, it’s probably an institution
  • If there are no computers available, or all the computers are in public places, it’s probably an institution
  • If you need a password for the wifi and the residents don’t have the password, it’s probably an institution
  • If nobody has a personal cell phone, landline, or computer, it’s probably an institution

Concepts of functioning levels

  • If a place claims to be a last resort for people who can’t function in a normal setting, it’s probably an institution and it’s probably doing horrible things

Bragging about mundane things as evidence of being wonderful places:

  • It’s very common for institutions to loudly proclaim that they have a pool, TVs, a barber shop, a charity shop people can work in, or other such things
  • If they think this is deeply impressive, something is wrong
  • Things that wouldn’t be particularly notable in an apartment building or neighborhood shouldn’t be particularly notable just because elderly or disabled people are involved
  • If people think they are, it’s probably an institution, and it’s probably intentionally confusing clients about what it means to be free and in the community

If people involved are required to regularly praise it

  • Everyone is disgruntled with workplaces or other aspects of their life sometimes
  • Free people express this sometimes
  • If everyone involved in an organization says it’s wonderful, and you can’t find anything people it serves are willing to complain about, something is wrong
  • This is particularly the case if the wall or website is full of testimonials about how great it is
  • And also particularly the case if people are regularly required to sing songs praising the place

If there isn’t serious regard for the privacy of people the organization serves

  • For instance, if there is a description of every single resident and their activities available on a public website, something is wrong
  • If you are brought into someone’s room without their freely given consent just so you can see what the rooms look like, it’s probably an institution

andreashettle said

One disability rights advocate and blogger, Dave Hinsburger http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com, has proposed what he calls (if I remember right) the “midnight burrito test”: Can a resident wake up in the middle of the night and zap themselves a burrito for a late night snack just because they feel like it?  If no, then it is probably an institution.

He discussed that in an issue of his organization’s newsletter for direct support workers.

Relevant quote:

With power comes the temptation of tyranny. We can end up saying “no” because we can … not because we need to. Every time someone asks for permission, for information, for assistance, the imbalance of power becomes greater. Their need of something from you, therefore, exacerbates the already existing hierarchy that comes with the role of support provider.

Have you ever heard of the ‘burrito test?’ I hadn’t until recently when someone posted a comment on my blog regarding the issues of power, control and food. The Burrito Test is stated quite simply, again from the comment on my blog: “Can the resident make and eat a microwave burrito at midnight if they so desire?” This comment has resulted in me having several conversations that I would never have had before. Most people I spoke to, from several different agencies, after careful consideration said the answer would be, in most cases, “No.”