Updated: Aug 31, 2020
Is an "Access all Areas" pass a right or a privilege?
Have you ever been to a concert and seen people wearing an ACCESS ALL AREAS lanyard? These are the people that no questions are asked when they want to access an area. For the rest of us poor mortals who have just bought a ticket to the show, we are relegated to our designated seat or area, waiting for the show to begin. When we try to go to these ‘special’ areas our access is restricted by the bouncers that stand in our way.
What would it look like for us all to have an ACCESS ALL AREAS pass to our own lives , making it barrier free to engage in community life , when we like, how we look and with whom we like. For most of us we may take this as granted and do not even think twice about the people that this is not a natural process.
For some in our community there are both external and internal barriers that prevent accessing the areas of our life that give us energy.
Our internal barriers usually consist of our self-talk that questions our sense of belonging, reminds us of our fear of rejection and encourages us to stay safe and not stretch into new adventures.
Whilst this is a normal vulnerability for many of us, it is especially challenging when we have been labelled with being different from others or socialised to the untruth that we can only hang out and connect with others who share our same struggles. In these situations people have to navigate and breakthrough externally created barricades in order to exercise their inherent right of being able to ACCESS ALL AREAS of their life.
Such barricades are formed from how support and care has been historically organised around perceived differences. This thinking was the birthplace of institutionalised care, sheltered workshops, group homes, and disability / illness focussed group programs. On one hand such approaches attempt to minimise the distress involved in socially connecting by creating separate environments and activities, however that also serves to further disconnect people from society at large and exercising their rightful access to full life experiences. Critical questions need to be asked as to whether this premise is still alive and well and still acting as a restriction on people’s lives.
To go back to the concert analogy . In the name of support and care, people are discouraged from enjoying the full concert or show experience. Instead they get a limited access pass to the tribute band , which is neither real nor the full experience. People’s life experiences become somewhat second rate. People start to accept that this is okay, at least they get to see things, be with people, maybe even get out and about regularly, but essentially, it’s not quite the real thing.
Mental health policy and subsequent funded programs have principally been designed so that people are supported to have ‘tribute band’ experiences. From the outside society is somewhat satisfied that it has offered a welfare service with activities and or support that mimic what others have in their life. From the personal perspective someone may be satisfied and even grateful for this offer, however like the limited access pass it leaves them somewhat disappointed, reinforcing a sense of exclusion and rejection.
Imagine instead a society where Access All Areas passes are an inherent given to all. An Access All Areas pass is not a free pass, it is given by our birthright simply by being human. Therefore it is not the person that needs to navigate the barriers and prove their status to access. It is society that must recognise everybody’s right of access and work to eradicate the barriers we may be wilfully blind to.
A true civil society is a functioning, robust, resilient and interconnected society. It comprises a fully engaged community where all people are considered equal members. Society risks breaking down when not everyone can engage in and access all It has to offer. This requires us to recognise that everyone has an Access All Areas pass to life
When we think about the analogy , “Access All Areas”, it brings into sharp view and questions how our current structured service systems could potentially and inadvertently contribute to a person’s sense of being “othered ”, just through our business as usual practices. It is time for us all to rethink and reimagine how we ensure people can use their full and rightful benefits of their Access All Areas pass.