We often use the term “independent living” when referring to people with disabilities living in the community. When I was Program Director at the St. Andrew’s Foundation, we hosted a seminar about teaching independent living skills to adults with developmental disabilities. The seminar leader drove home the point that what we are really talking about is interdependence rather than independence. None of us so-called able-bodied individuals live truly independently. We are all interdependent upon one another for a variety of things. Everyone lives by getting help from others. For those with “normal” abilities, knowing how to find the help that is needed is part of how we make it in society. Or as The Beatles famously sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
Dorothy managed to keep a network of friends who helped her to get by in life. She was able to live her dream of having her own apartment and to come and go as she pleased by enlisting the help she needed from friends around her. Sometimes help came in the form of social services, and sometimes it came from the friendships that Dorothy had in the community and at her church. At the time of our interviews, Dorothy was in her elder years and needed a bit more assistance in her home than she had in previous years. One day I asked Dorothy about how she managed to get the things she needed in order to live comfortably in her apartment.
I have to have help getting to my doctor’s appointments. Some of my friends over there at the church will take me sometimes. Sometimes Ros (former secretary at St Andrew’s Foundation) helps out.
I used to go over to the office at St. Andrew’s to get help with bills and appointments. I did have a case manager, she left and I got a new case manager now. The folks at MRDD (Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities) don’t work with me no more. I’m under a different system where they have a nurse to come in and help with my medicines and a cleaning lady helps me clean and another lady comes to help with my bath.
There were about three or four of them that came yesterday, including my new case manager. They asked if anything ever happened, an emergency or something, like a flood or a fire, did I have anybody to stay with. Lana told her that Ros lived up on the hill or I could go with her. They said something about a shelter, but I do not want to go to no shelter.
My MRDD case managers would always make sure my doctor’s appointments were taken care of and that somebody would take me shopping. Sometimes they would carry me shopping, but Fred Pinto made them stop because they didn’t have insurance on the car in case there was an accident.
Miss Lexis Buford was my case manager, but I’m not with the MRDD no more. Now they’ve got me on Medicaid Waiver. It happened that they moved me from MRDD to Southern Hospitality, then they got me on Medicaid waiver. A case manager came by my apartment.
So they help out where I need help. I’m not with the Southern Hospitality any more. It’s where people come in to give you a bath or launder your clothes or clean your house –other people come in now. I still get out and clean up the porch. I try to pull the weeds out from around the porch.
When I was at Partlow, there was a girl used to wash and iron my clothes till I started working in the laundry and learnt how to do it myself. I’d put my clothes in a pillow case. She would take them to wash ‘em and then she’d bring ‘em back. She was one of the residents there. I thought about getting me a washer and dryer over here, but there’s no place to put one. Now I have to get somebody else to wash my clothes. The lady that comes over here washed them one time. I used to get e girl that goes to church to wash my clothes. She goes to school now and she can’t do it no more. I used to do it but I can’t walk up the hill to the Laundromat no more, I get plumb out of breath. When somebody comes to wash my clothes, I have to give them some change for the machines. I used to have some from Southern Hospitality, but I don’t use them no more because I caught one of those ladies going in to my refrigerator. This girl that used to do it, she don’t come up here very often now, She won’t come at all if it’s raining. She don’t have no transportation – she has to get somebody to bring her over here or either she’ll ride the bus.
I’ve got one lady that comes in to help in the apartment every day, and one that comes every other day. Sometimes one of them will wash my clothes but they just put them in a bag and leave ‘em. They’ll come every other week to wash ‘em.
I was down there 35 years [at Partlow], and then I got out. I was assisted how to use a coin operated laundry and how to match my clothes and everything, and how I used to walk downtown by myself. I’d go down to Five- points and over yonder to Western Supermarket. I’d still love to do it but my legs won’t allow me to do it no more.
Sometimes my cleaning lady will come and fix breakfast. I mostly fix it myself, but sometimes she’ll fix it. I usually fix them veggies strips when I got ‘em. Then I’ll fix toast and eggs sometime, maybe grits or oatmeal. I like jelly and butter, homemade jams, and things.
One time Harry took me over to Sylacauga to try to meet my cousin. She was so mean and nasty and she acted like she didn’t even know who I was. I thought sure she would be glad to see me. We hadn’t seen each other since we were children. She was about seven and I was about five. But she just made me feel unwelcome. I felt like I wasn’t welcome anywhere except at home and at church.