What is it like to work with disabled people?

My name is Audrey and I am a volunteer in the association ATA, in the framework of a voluntary service with the European Solidarity Corps. My mission is to come in hand in the different structures where I work with people with various disabilities.

I work in 3 different structures, two of which are non-profit associations and one state-run centre. I am confronted to two different frameworks but they have in common a field centred on the social, the human in its individuality, its complexity and sometimes in the collective. In the centre for disabled children, there is much more of a medical aspect such as physical care. This is crucial as the children are in the centre 24 hours a day.

In my other work places, we have collective workshops and a possible reception of several hours, half-day to a full day.

What is it like to work with people with disabilities?

It is an incredible human experience. An incredible lesson in life, teaching humanity and humility. When I am with them, children and adults, I feel an immense pride and a wave of love. They are such friendly and caring people. They are accepting and welcoming of others.  I feel so honoured to be able to share these moments with them. For some reason, I feel at peace and so happy to be able to connect with them.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Nothing can be perfect but in this imperfection I feel good. Working with them is not to be taken lightly but it is all the more rewarding. There are as many disabilities as there are people who can work with this audience. There is no ideal quality to be able to share moments with them, everyone can find their place.

They take a lot of energy, require patience and not knowing the language makes it of course challenging. But the magic lies in the fact that we can communicate not only with words and speech. Of course I try to communicate with language but most of the time non-verbal communication works well. A smile, attentions, touches and exchange of energy is all it takes. Beauty is in the little things. It is sometimes complicated to always use it but there is always a way.

My activities are cooking, gardening, dancing and singing. My main activity is to share moments, laughter, joys and sorrows and to be attentive to their needs. The main thing is just to be there for them.  Sometimes it is tiring, sometimes I am exhausted at the end of the day, but in return they give a lot of hope, humanity, wonder and love. Mostly love.

In summary, working with an audience with disabilities is a mixture of hope, wonder, patience, fatigue and great lessons in life and humility.