What are you watching on TV? We here at MySupport have been watching Speechless and loving it! ABC’s new sitcom is an important landmark for the disability community. Speechless features a disabled main character played by a disabled actor—one of the only shows on TV right now to do so. But it’s not just representation that the sitcom provides. Through comedy, Speechless has discussed issues that are critical for people with disabilities.
In the first two episodes, personal aids have taken center stage. The Dimeo family has moved to a new house so that JJ (Micah Fowler) can attend school in an inclusive setting with an aid. But when the aid assigned by the school district proves dissatisfying to JJ—she talks like a fairy godmother—he starts looking other people for the role. He finds school gardener Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough) more to his liking and asks Kenneth to be his aid at the end of the first episode.
JJ’s mother Maya Dimeo (Minnie Driver) is initially skeptical of JJ’s choice. Paternalistically, she assumes that no one can do as good a job fulfilling JJ’s needs as she can. Maya plots to get Kenneth dismissed from his position so that someone else can be hired. But when she sees the strong repartee between JJ and Kenneth, Maya changes her mind.
For both JJ and Maya, these events provide opportunities for character growth. At long last, JJ gets to make a decision for himself, while Maya is learning to respect his decisions. This situation shows the importance of autonomous decision-making for people with disabilities. By being able to select his own aid, JJ is happier and gets to have his needs met in a way that works for him.
Too often, this basic right has been denied to disabled people. Aids are commonly assigned through processes that leave disabled people with little choice about who is going to assist them with cooking, cleaning, bathroom needs, and other highly intimate tasks.
Fortunately, this is changing thanks to Self-Determination. States like California, Iowa, and New Jersey are moving towards Self-Determination policies that allow people with disabilities and their families to choose where and how they receive services. With Self-Determination, more and more disabled people will get choose their own support workers.
MySupport helps people make informed choices about their aids, using the power of technology. Its approach is similar to some online dating or social media platforms . When individuals sign up, they answer questions about their personal needs and preferences. MySupport then shows them local support workers that they are compatible with.
Before agreeing to anything, individuals seeking support and support workers can communicate and test the waters. MySupport is designed to help individuals and workers find the right partnership—just like JJ and Kenneth.
If you live in Northern California or Iowa, come check out MySupport and create a profile. If not, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can bring MySupport to your community!