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Pamela Cambiazo – bringing practice into research and back again, by Sheenagh Morrison

June 28, 2012

Question #1: You’ve been a good friend to people with disabilities for a long time, in a bunch of different ways. What are you currently doing that has to do with them?

My main way of being involved with people with disabilities is through my job. I currently work at a house where I support three people to live as independently as they want to live.  In my role at the house I help with day to day things like meals, shopping and laundry.  Occasionally I help out with things that have to do with finding work or connecting with friends.

As well as my work, I am a social work student and I am focusing my studies on the role of the support worker for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Question #2: What do you think research brings to people with disabilities?

I think that research is a good way to find new ways to think about how we have always lived and challenge our ideas about the usual ways we go about things.  For people with disabilities, who as a group have faced discrimination and life-limiting policies, research brings new ideas that have the chance to expand opportunities.  New knowledge that comes from research has the potential to help people with and without disabilities think differently about the ways that people with disabilities can live more fully in the community. 

Question #3: What kind of educational opportunities would you like to see for adults with disabilities? For their families? For those who support them?

I think that education is a very personal pursuit and that each of us comes to our own “need to learn” in our own way and time. In general as people with disabilities are inspired to get more education I would hope that supports or programs would be available to help out. In my own experience I learn best in a group or with a study-buddy and I think that social connection is a great companion to learning.  Because of this I would like to see a community based/mentorship as part of the supports to people with disabilities.

I think for families or support workers it is important to study critical disability studies to get a sense of the history and content of this important social movement.  I believe that with a historically informed background more nuanced forms of advocacy are possible.  Also, I think this work/study is also best done within a social context that fosters debate and dialogue.

Question #4: Can you tell a brief story about one of your friends who have a disability and what you think they bring to their community?

I sometimes go shopping or for coffee with my friend Kara (not her real name) and what I notice most about being out with her is that she actively and skillfully connects with people. She is always looking for a chance to start a conversation by making comments that draw people to her.  Because of this when we go out people are happy to see her and at times go out of their way to say “hi”.  In this way Kara makes the community she travels in a little more friendly for everyone –  like making a small town in the middle of the city. 

Question #5: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

As a person studying about disability and working with people with disabilities I wonder if there is no real way to learn how to support “people with disabilities” because there are no “people”, there are only individuals that we meet, one at a time.  These individuals, given the chance, will let us know how they would like to be helped.  Therefore, as support workers, we approach our role not as teachers (life skills or otherwise) but as learners.  


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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 28, 2012 9:59 am

    What a great interview! I especially am drawn to the final comments about “people” vs “individuals,” something I will try to keep in mind as I interact with those who cross my path, one person at a time. Thank you both.

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