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"My attendant really helped me see that asking for help wasn't admitting defeat."

When Ric began receiving Outreach services from the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region (ILCWR) in 1988, he had a profound revelation, inspired in part by his attendant at the time.

“My attendant really helped me see that asking for help wasn't admitting defeat,” Ric recalls. “We had a great time. We really did.” As a side-note, the attendant was Bil Smith, who went on to become the organization’s Executive Director.

This spirit of independence permeates all aspects of Ric’s life, not least of all his participation in ILCWR’s Direct Funding program. While all of ILCWR’s attendant services are directed by the consumers who use them, the Direct Funding program goes even further, making it possible for people like Ric to become employers of their own attendants. Not only does this program exemplify the consumer-direction that underlies all of ILCWR’s services, it also provides an opportunity for people with physical disabilities to develop people management skills—skills which are highly transferable, especially in the workplace.

“Direct funding is a good program once you have the skills to do the management,” says Ric. “I have really liked it."

Ric made the move to the Direct Funding program in 1995, after seven years of receiving attendant services through ILCWR’s Outreach program. “For me, it wasn’t a big change because I had already done some managing in Outreach,” he mentions, modestly.

Modesty, in fact, is a major theme in Ric’s life. In the early stages of the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region’s development, Ric was approached again and again to contribute his skills and expertise to the growing agency, and was even approached to assume leadership of the organization as Executive Director—a role he modestly declined. Holding both an undergraduate degree in Computer Science University of Waterloo and a Master of Social Work degree from Wilfrid Laurier University, he held a seat on the organization’s Board of Directors for four years in the mid-1980s, a crucial time when the agency was beginning to establish itself in the community.

Having such refined leadership qualities and a background in social work have had a very positive impact on Ric’s participation in the Direct Funding program. Specifically, his training as a social worker allows Ric to understand and navigate the dynamics between himself and his attendants.

“Right now I have an excellent set of attendants," Ric says. And there’s certainly no reason why they wouldn’t be—after all, he was the one who hired them.



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