Painful Site Serves as Important Reminder

Tue, January 17, 2012

Yesterday I visited the Al Dlail institution in northwest Jordan. It is difficult to put into words what I saw and how I felt.

Having been part of the revolution, moving people with disabilities from institutions to community-based programs, it was a reminder of how far we have come and to never forget how people with disabilities have been mistreated.

Historic Day in Jordan

When I first arrived at the institution, I was taken into a room to meet the senior staff and see a slide show. The slides were quite revealing. One series of slides showed a dining room, a kitchen and a laundry room. What was missing in the slides were people with disabilities. Only staff were shown. I immediately jumped up and pointed to the slides and asked if the individuals participated in any of these activities. The staff were stunned and said it would be too dangerous.

We then engaged in a spirited discussion of how to have participation in functional, age appropriate, productive activities. I was encouraged that the staff were open to ideas and wanted to improve the programming.

Afterward I was given a tour. The individuals were all dressed in childlike pajamas even though it was daytime. They were engaged in what one staff member described as "useless" activities such as playing with childlike materials. When we went into the dining area, all the individuals were seated against the wall, waiting for staff to serve them. It was hard to see all the opportunities for productive activities right in front of us and not being utilized. Still, the worst was yet to come.

Before I left, I asked if I could see the bedrooms. In one room, there were five men with more severe intellectual and physical disabilities lying in their beds with no staff in sight. I asked why were they lying there during the daytime. My escorts commented that they don't know how to work with them and that there was no way to help them. If fact, they ate their meals in that room. There were three attendants for 40 men in this area. I also saw a women lying in bed with a severe case of diabetes. She refused treatment and was left in the bed. Many of the more involved individuals were left to rot in this area. It was so painful to see. How can people be treated like that!

The Higher Council for Disabilities in Jordan has asked for our support, which is admirable. We have sent staff to another institution in Jordan and hopefully, we can help in Al Dlait.

I did pause to reflect on the great work that our staff throughout the YAI Network do everyday in our programs and services. We should all be so proud that we have greatly improved the quality of lives for the individual's we support. What a contrast from what I saw at this institution. We should never forget how people with disabilities were treated and how they should be supported.