Down Stairs That are Never Your Own [PDF]

Supporting People with Developmental Disabilities in Their Own Homes

John O’Brien


You will come to know how bitter as salt and stone is the bread of others, how hard the way that goes up and down stairs that are never your own. 
– Dante, Paradise CANTO XVII, 58-60

Most adults with developmental disabilities eat the bread of others and know only the way that goes up and down stairs that are never their own. Either they live in their parent’s house or they occupy a bed in a place set up to offer supervision and treatment. Mostly, opportunities to hold one’s own lease require the ability to succeed with minimal assistance. Problems usually send a person in difficulty down the steps of the service continuum to a bed in a more restrictive facility.

Until recently this seemed an obvious and necessary consequence of having a severe disability. Today’s service systems developed around the unspoken assumption that people could not have both severe disabilities and homes of their own.