‘Customers’ Living in Shared Supported Accommodation

Yooralla likes to standardise all residents as customers.

Should officials of Yooralla’s shared supported accommodation stereotype all its residents as one, despite the opposing modes and actions of severe disability, like total physical or intellectual impairments?

For example, in my opinion I should be known as an academic with an individual form of Friedreich’s Ataxia. So why am I standardised?

The unethical feeling of being standardised as a ‘customer’ is unfair because it fails to look at me as an individual and an academic, thereby undermining all my hard work. I felt this to be a truly aggravating approach from senior support staff that only looked to my obvious disability. This gives rise to the stereotypical  assumptions that group all people with severe disabilities in Yooralla’s shared supported accommodation as ‘customers’. Maybe I am only one of the few people with a severe disability who suffers from such a stereotype. Maybe it is because I am one of the few people who have performed hard work for a PhD that is being reduced to my disability. So should I not feel pissed off?

The term customer is to relate to all Yooralla residents living in shared supported accommodation, regardless of their individual disability. The fact is, all disabilities are not the same, as they all have individual aspects and characteristics. The outstanding problem then, is Yooralla’s failure to identify diversity in disability. Rather, all managers and staff seek to call all Yooralla residents living in shared supported accommodation under one spurious cultural and economic term: ‘customer’.

Let me give rise to my personal feelings on the subject. Like every business, even not-for-profit organisations have the need to further cost-benefit analyses. Ok, how can such spurious name calling be a benefit to Yooralla? By becoming a method of standardization of disability supports, enforcing a ‘one size fits all’ policy, provides Yooralla with an economic advantage.

I recently visited Glen Park as a prospective resident. Despite this fact, my treatment was second rate, where nobody on Glen Parks’ management team decided to show, or even follow up with post visitation emails. Let me explain in a frank and truthful way; upon looking at the residence, the general equipment and resources, for me, it presented a situation that could meet my individual needs. However, my disability and I require a form of individual care. For example, I need to be showered with an ongoing hygiene regime within 2 1/2 hours every morning. This is provided at Dunblane despite having a working ratio of 4 staff to 9 residents. On the other hand, when I visited Glen Park, as part of my first visit I asked them about their care regime and I was told rather abruptly that their morning routine for each resident was to be done within 45 minutes. This concerns me because in retrospect, Glen Park has a working ratio of 3 support workers to 5 residents.  In my well educated opinion this is a reflection of a poor working ethos at Glen Park. This is not to say that Dunblane is perfect; the care provided is still standardised to a great extent (please see my older blogposts on the subject: x and x).



Why I am so outraged being stigmatised by the bogus name calling of all Yooralla residents who are stereotyped by the unauthentic word ‘customer’?

Today, disability can be noted as the vast or infinite actions of individual impairment. It is a very diverse and personal experience for each individual.

My beliefs on this are perceptions based on pragmatic and theoretical knowledge of the disability sector. I respect and love my intellectual abilities. Why should they be compromised to suit the economic needs of Yooralla? Such penny pinching tactics may be understood from the quote below:

‘At this meeting, we were told of plans to sell the provider’s prime real estate in the Melbourne CBD. A question was asked about the way in which the provider was viewing this sale. The discussion seemed to be suggesting that the sale could assist the provider in overcoming its budget problems. That was why as a corporation it was considering divesting itself of one of its assets.

So the suggestion was put to the provider that if the building in Flinders Street was being sold for budgetary purposes, a small amount of the profit from the sale could be used to help the pensioners among the residents overcome their budget problems that would accrue from an increase in the rent.

After all, the service provider is keen to present itself to the community as an effective not-for-profit company, and so all of its profits are to be ploughed back into the community it is serving. And residents certainly wish to have their part in this community recognised. They are not merely rentiers; they are constitutive of the provider’s community.

The assets held by the provider are retained by it to enable the provision of a service it is constituted to provide.’


A special thanks to Christina Irugalbandara for her excellence in academic support work.

Author: petergibilisco

Researcher, author and advocate. Bachelor of Business Accounting, PhD from Melbourne University. Dealing with issues involving disability.

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