LOOKING BACK –
by Mark Leeper A REFLECTION ON 2021
This past couple of years, 2020 and 2021, have been especially tumultuous on many fronts – nationally, regionally, and locally. Public offices have been shut down, employees in many agencies and companies have come and gone, and the country has seemed ever more divisive. Needless to say, CILs are not immune to the external factors that are impacting everyone everywhere, and neither are the CIL staff.
We have experienced a tremendous amount of stress throughout our workforce. Staff members are doing their best to support others even as they struggle to maintain their own health. This stress has clearly affected people at every level and my compassion has been great for those that have continued to do their best under trying and ever-changing circumstances. VR programs, many CILs, and others have often struggled to find new or replacement staff. Many programs have faced significant reductions in the numbers of people with a disability seeking services as the pandemic limited connections. Even with that reduced contact, we know that people are suffering and we want to figure out how to help. To better reach out and serve, we have received many thousands of dollars with uncertain timelines and vague structure, putting additional strain on already stressed people and systems.
As these funds and uncertain expectations threaten to lead us down paths we have never traveled in the IL world, I believe that it is doubly important that we maintain our focus on the IL philosophy and not allow the IL movement and the CILs that are built to implement services to support it, lapse into provision of traditional, intervention types of services. Too much focus on intervention services dilutes our impact as a movement that champions and supports choice and self-determination and chosen levels of interdependence that are key to changing attitudes and supporting the idea that we are equal and not special. Let’s remember to support each other, reminding each other that the IL philosophy still applies, and that systemic change and peer support are still critical underpinnings and primary ingredients in our struggle for equality and justice.