Consumer Control In Practice

You are the Manager, We Facilitate

Early Independent Living [IL] advocates saw service providers as creating dependency on the “system”.  The Professional was acknowledged as an expert who would tell the “client” what they should do. To alleviate this dependency cycle, people with disabilities must realize they can and do have a responsibility to control their own lives. In order to promote this principle, the concept of “consumer” is used to illustrate the act of choice as in selecting a product or service.  “Client” is not used because it describes a person who is taking advice from “experts”. 

Like the consumer-language shift, PACE’s counterpart to “case managers” in the traditional service system are called “facilitators”. This language change purposefully emphasizes that the person with the disability is the true manager.   The role of the IL facilitator is to assist and empower consumers so that they are not just told they are in control, but actually experience having control. In order to assist the consumer, PACE staff provide skills training, information, referral, advocacy, peer counseling and transition services as tools for the consumer to use.

The Right to Fail

PACE staff understand that a consumer’s control may lead them into a decision that staff would not consider the best way to achieve their goal. In that case, the staff will present their concerns and go over possible outcomes of each option being considered. But, staff will respect that the consumer is in charge, and if they choose an option that may have negative consequences, that is their prerogative. Our staff are trained not to “White Knight” or “try to save” consumers from what they anticipate might be a failure. Not only is it a matter of honoring consumer control, it is also a matter of learning through trial and error- a valuable life experience irrespective of disability. PACE staff are also cautioned that the consumer may very well prove them wrong by succeeding at something the staff person doubted would work. Again, at all points within PACE’s service delivery, the consumer is in control of their life.