Say N/A to N/A (except in menstrual management for men!)

One of the first changes that I set about in one of my workplaces was to get rid of N/A (not assessable) from profiles on people with PIMD. Often I would see reports strewn with “vision: N/A”, “hearing: N/A”, “cognition: N/A”, and “communication: N/A” or worse “communication: nonverbal” (problems with the term nonverbal will be explored another day). All of these areas are assessable and provision of quality services necessitate an understanding of the areas. How can a service say that they are working on providing a service to enhance a person’s quality of life if they do not know answers to these fundamental questions that shape the way a person experiences the world around them?
“Professional” assessment can be very useful for answering these questions but it is not an essential starting point. Not having a professional assessment is not a reasonable excuse for not having basic knowledge about a person. Take vision for example. Anybody can do a very basic vision assessment – we do them every time we meet a person. Does the person make eye contact with you when you are standing two metres away, or only when your face is 30 cm from their’s? Does the person’s eyes follow objects in space, and do they use their eyes to locate objects before grabbing them? Do they recognise photos? In some cases the results may be “the person does not make eye contact or look at objects and further information is needed to know if they can distinguish between light and dark”. “Blind” is also not a sufficient descriptor as the majority of people labelled as blind do have some vision and our responsibility is then to know how to use the vision that they have. Similar everyday functional observations can be made for hearing, cognition, and communication (people very rarely have no hearing, no cognition, and no communication). It is our responsibility to understand the people that we propose to support. It is our responsibility to ensure that people can use the skills they have, however limited the skills may be.
The only acceptable area for N/A is in menstrual management for men!

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