A Self-Directed (Night) Life

An African American male in a wheel chair and an African American female pose for the camera in front of a black and white artistic background

Arthur (Art) uses the Supports Brokering service through Values Into Action to support him in managing his Participant Directed Services. Below is a conversation between Art and his Support Service Professional, Davion. Art and Diavion (pictured above) created this blog with the assistance from Jennifer Smith (Supports Broker) and Michele Dinardo (Supports Brokerage Coordinator).

Diavion: Hi. My name is Diavion Lowman

Art: and I’m Arthur Lowman.

Diavion: I am a support staff for Art

Art: I don’t know exactly what to call my role, really.

Diavion: Basically, he is the boss.

Art: I’ll say it, I’m her boss. It sounds kind of weird, because she’s my niece, but it works.

Diavion: I think it works.

Diavion: Are there any questions that you have for me as far as working with you?

Art: Well, so far, how do you like working with me?

Diavion: I enjoy working with you. There are challenges, for sure. I’ve been working with you for about a year and a half now, since last February.

Art: Crazy. I know!

Diavion: But I do enjoy working with you.  The same way that I support to get you out, you get me out trying new things.  Before working with you I’d never gone to a burlesque show. I’ve never gone to fetish clubs. And I definitely find myself at more bars.

Art: A little too much, maybe a little too much!

Diavion:I do have to prioritize school sometimes, too, but I still like it. What have been some of your favorite things that we’ve done together?

Art: New York? I would like to go to New York again.  New York [city] was fun.

Diavion: What was your favorite part of New York?

Art: I-I really can’t say I just basically like New York in in general.

Diavion: Remind me what did we do in New York?

Art: We went to the sex museum

 And we had went to a burlesque show. But my favorite thing there, which you hate, I know, and a lot of other people probably would say, “oh, heck no,” is the sling shot ride.

Diavion:That was really fun.

Art: I would get on that again.

Diavion: Art, you had been wanting to try the slingshot for how long?

Art: I don’t know, but for a long time.

Diavion: And what have people been telling you about it?

 Art: They don’t think I should try it, because they’ve been worried about my seizures and everything. But I tried it, and I SURVIVED it.  I am not really worried about what people say no more

Diavion: I agree. That’s one of the things that you probably wouldn’t have ever been able to do unless you were running your own services.  Are there any other things that you’ve done that you feel like you wouldn’t have been able to do unless you were “the boss”?

Art: I can’t really think of anything right now, except for the buffet we went to.

Diavion: Which buffet was that?

Art: Golden Corral

Diavion: Oh, golden Corral. You’ve never gone to Golden Corral before?

Art: No, and I want to go again, it’s really good.

Diavion: It’s almost like that’s the only buffet around you know.  Buffets honestly seem like they’re so extinct since COVID happened.  Since you recently got approved for more support hours how do you feel?

Art: Oh, God, I feel great about that. It’s almost like, I don’t even have to worry about going over (over utilizing) my hours now.

Diavion: Do you feel like you were using up your hours a lot?

Art: Heck yeah!

Diavion: Why is that?

Art: Because the places you take me to, we just have fun. I don’t really take notice of the hours or anything once I start having fun. And when I go bowling and stuff, with Juana (non-relative SSP), I forget to watch the time because I am just having so much fun.

Diavion: I like that. It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with me!

Art: and I want to do more!

Diavion: What type of things would you want to do?

Art: I can’t think of them right now, you’re asking me on the spot, but eventually they’ll come to mind.

Diavion: Have, have you felt like having consistent staff has helped you grow as a person?

Art: It has helped me get out of my comfort zone a little bit.  That’s what you need to work on a little more.

Diavion:Okay, what could I work on as your employee?

Art: What was it…what did you say?

Diavion: Oh, being a wingman!

Art:  I keep thinking, sidekick

Diavion: Sidekick works too

Art: Because really what I’m doing right now to get comfortable dating and putting myself out there is like, when it comes down to things like that, I go on YouTube, and I’ll look up things like that- like how relationships work and stuff.  And that’s what I’m trying to do. But it’s hard to meet girls out here now nowadays

Diavion: I agree.  Like I was telling you before, talking to girls is hard, it’s like a whole other battle in itself.  And you just don’t know how they’re going to take certain things; you don’t know if you’re going to come off weird.  So, I understand that. Do you feel like the bars and the parties that we have gone to have been handicapped accessible?

Art: Oh, yeah.  So far!

Diavion: Do you remember the bar in New York where you were in the middle of the dance floor in your wheelchair? That was crazy fun!

Art: You kept telling me to dance!

Diavion: I just want you to have a good time, especially if we’re doing once in a lifetime experiences, right?

Art: Maybe if we do things like that a little more

Diavion: Like parties?

Art: Like those types of things maybe that will get me to open up even more? Like the first one you took me to. The one in Philly-

Diavion: Concourse?

Art: That’s the name of it? When it was you and Amber (Diavion’s friend) there? Didn’t you say they have that every weekend or so?

Diavion: Concourse happens every weekend.

Art: Maybe we do that more?  How do you think you’ve helped me?

Diavion: I would like to think I have helped you to come out of your comfort zone, you have also introduced me to activities that you were interested in, like burlesque and fetish clubs.  I think that you have learned you are able to do things you have been told for a long time that you couldn’t do. I think now, you realize you are capable of much more than you thought you were too.

Art: I feel like a whole lot of people have underestimated me.

Diavion: Do you feel like I ever underestimate you?

Art: No, that’s why I sent you those messages and videos [dating related]- I feel like you and Juana are the only ones (staff) who haven’t underestimated me

Diavion:I really appreciate that.  I always want to “push you.” Where you’re at now- you can be 10x further.  That’s why I encourage you to do the things you express interest in; go out, move out, to drive if that’s what you want! That’s why I encourage you to get a job that pays more- because you are capable of so much. Disability…wheelchair…or not- you can do a lot.  Literally, anything you want.

Art: The only thing is now- going places by myself.  The reason I don’t really like doing that, for one- I don’t know where to go, so I do need support identifying places to go and things to do and two, I don’t want to go places and get lost or stand there wondering what’s next. 

Diavion: Like I was telling you before- that’s part of getting out of your comfort zone, you won’t always know what to do, that is normal.

Art: Yeah, that’s why for now, I do like having you with me- to advise me. 

Diavion: That’s true, I do always want to be guidance for you, like when we are out in clubs, but I also want to encourage you to try things for yourself, by yourself, like taking the bus.  Do you feel comfortable taking the bus somewhere familiar by yourself yet?

Art: No. not yet. Like, knowing what stop to get off at and stuff like that.

Diavion: Maybe that can be a challenge that we try- you taking the bus by yourself?  Would you be open to that?

Art: Yeah

Diavion: It is all a learning curve.  You don’t know how to do it, unless you try it first.  Just like the internet has helped you to learn about relationships and talking to girls- there are internet tools you can use for that, and you can talk to the driver when you get on, “hey, can you assist me with this?”

Art:I have been thinking about those types of things

Diavion: Instead of thinking about it, let’s make it happen.

Art: The first step is figuring out where can I go

Diavion: And we can make a list, like downtown, or the museum of illusions you have been talking about, or the VR place. Do you want to tell them about your business ideas?

Art: I have been thinking about making collages, but I need to find people who would buy them.

Diavion: Starting a business is a great idea to add to your goals.  It can help you to save money so you can move into your own place eventually. You have a lot of talents you need to delve into more.  Is there anything you want to tell others about going out, trying new things?

Art: My dream job is to become a therapist, so I have to work at it.  Don’t give up. Work hard, respect others, never give up. I can and I will.  That is saying, you can do this- and you will continue to do this.  That is why I have my tattoos, to remind myself. 

Diavion: And how about going out to social activities?

Art: Like, if you want to go out to a fetish club or something.  Don’t be scared.  But if you are scared- find someone to go with you until you feel comfortable. 

Diavion: Do you feel like me working for you has changed our relationship?

 Art: Yes, before I only saw you as my niece, but now we talk about things that I never thought we would.  I feel the same way with Juana, I can talk about things and do things that I wouldn’t have even felt comfortable talking to my mom or sister about. 

Diavion: I think that’s how it should be; you should feel safe and comfortable with Juana and me.

Art: But- you do need to work on being on time.

Diavion: I’ll take that, I am all for constructive criticism.  And the one thing you need to work on is savings! You do love an amazon package. Any other closing thoughts? 

Art: Just keep going.

Diavion: Would you recommend others manage their support staff?

Art: Yes, someone that will actually spend time with you, not someone doing it just to get a paycheck because I will tell you, I have had staff who just showed up and sometimes they didn’t even do that.

Diavion: Like they didn’t enjoy themselves?

Art: Yes, so find someone that you trust, someone that you believe you will have fun with.

Diavion: I remember when you first asked if I would like you to work with you, you said you felt like I do fun things.

Art: And hopefully we can do more as time goes on

Diavion: 100%, we are travelling on planes next- we just have to get our money up!