Editors Note: The dignity of risk is a very powerful concept. We cannot allow our fear of harm or wish to protect disabled people from harm to effectively mean we are making choices for others. Disabled people, like everyone else, must be free and empowered to make their own choices and live with the consequences. That is how we all develop our character and personality. That is the real meaning of choice and control.
Below is a great article on this concept of the dignity of risk.


By Janet Shouse 

The dignity of risk is an idea that I encountered when my son with autism was in elementary school. The dignity of risk is the right to take risks when engaging in life experiences, and the right to fail in those activities.

I think all of us who are parents want to protect our children from physical harm as well as emotional harm, and that’s true whether our child has a disability or not. But most of us realize, as our children begin to grow up, it’s not always possible to protect them.

If our children decide they want to ride a bicycle, chances are, at some point, they will skin a knee or scrape an elbow. If, as they grow older, they have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, generally someone ends up with a heartache. As a parent, we can’t prevent that heartache.

But for those of us who have children with disabilities, even adult sons or daughters with disabilities, we often want to continue to protect them, keep them safe, take care of them, and watch over them. We may, however, severely limit their ability to make choices, to risk failure, and to grow.

Some of those risks may revolve around employment and living independently. For many parents, their ideas of jobs their son or daughter can do may not match what that son or daughter wants to do. Are you willing to let your youth or young adult choose a job he or she thinks might be fun and interesting? Even if there might be risks?

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About the AuthorJanet Shouse is a parent of a young adult with autism, and she is passionate about inclusion, employment of people with disabilities, medical issues related to developmental disabilities, supports and services, public policy, legislative initiatives, advocacy, and the intersection of faith and disability. She wears many hats at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, including one as a disability employment specialist for TennesseeWorks. 

Our hope is that this weekly blog will offer information you want to know, so if you have a question you want answered about employment for people with disabilities or other mysteries of the world of work, please email [email protected] 

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