Re-Route Magazine

Open Future Learning Provides Resources For An Ordinary Life

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Advocacy
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8 min read

Beauty reveals itself in the intricate tapestry of our ordinary, mundane lives, transcending the superficial layers of our existence. It is in those unremarkable moments, where decisions hold little weight, and the rhythm of life flows effortlessly, that the true essence of our being is unveiled.

Through the gentle stumbles we encounter along our journey, we discover invaluable lessons of resilience, adaptability, and the unwavering strength of perseverance. These transformative experiences intricately weave themselves into the very fabric of our character, nurturing the virtues of patience, empathy, and a genuine reverence for the seemingly inconspicuous moments that compose the magnificent tapestry of our lives.

By embracing the inherent beauty nestled within the realm of the mundane, we embark upon an extraordinary voyage of personal evolution.

A graphic with examples of ordinary life such as A safe, stable, place to live, A job that pays real money, vacations, friendships & romance, pets. Graphic credit to Open Future Learning

Within the realm of intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), there is also a yearning for these everyday moments which shape us so deeply. It is a yearning for a life adorned with personal growth, meaningful connections pulsating with significance, and the liberating ability to carve one's unique path. Yet, these aspirations often face formidable barriers within a society confined to the narrow boundaries of a medical model, fixated on rigid expectations and behaviors. In this discouraging landscape, support workers, caregivers, teachers, and countless others inadvertently contribute to the prevailing sense of limitation. However, in this landscape of obstacles, Open Future Learning stands as a radiant beacon of hope and understanding. It boldly distinguishes itself by embracing and championing these profound desires, acknowledging every individual's inherent worth and potential on their journey.

Open Future Learning is an online learning resource that radiates its profound impact on the realm of intellectual and developmental disabilities. With a resolute mission at its core, this platform becomes an invaluable instrument for dedicated, direct support staff, caregivers, and individuals with I/DD, inviting them to immerse themselves in subjects deeply intertwined with the lives of those they support. Here, the pursuit of knowledge transcends mere acquisition, embracing a more profound purpose: to actively weave newfound wisdom into the fabric of support, enhancing its quality and efficacy.

Recognizing the vital importance of this reciprocal process, the platform fosters an environment where both support staff and individuals with disabilities can grow and learn side-by-side. Through this shared journey of growth and mutual discovery, Open Future Learning creates a transformative and inclusive learning experience, ultimately enriching the lives of everyone involved.

Side-by-side learning not only cultivates personal growth and skill development for individuals receiving support but also nurtures a profound bond between them and their support providers. This bond becomes a wellspring of strength, understanding, and companionship, paving the way for a more meaningful and holistic support experience.

The seeds of Open Future Learning were lovingly sown in the fertile soil of personal experience and profound empathy. Ben Drew, the visionary founder, embarked on a path that began within a small Camphill Village-like intentional community nestled in rural England. There, he forged deep connections with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As destiny guided him across continents to the bustling streets of New York, he realized that the challenges faced by individuals with I/DD transcended geographical boundaries. It was in this realization that the grand vision of Open Future Learning took shape—an ambitious endeavor to create a global learning resource, harnessing the collective wisdom of leading thinkers worldwide to foster understanding and inclusivity.

At the heart of Open Future Learning lies a profound appreciation for the authentic voices and experiences of individuals with I/DD, transcending the constraints of verbal communication. Some of the most profound lessons learned by founder Ben Drew have come from the people he has supported, even those who do not use words to communicate. Reflecting on his growth and past mistakes, Ben emphasizes the importance of questioning our own thinking and assumptions and instead listening to and following the voice of the person, regardless of how they communicate.

Moreover, Ben passionately emphasizes the significance of "getting our own house in order" when it comes to creating a genuinely inclusive society. He astutely points out that it is not enough to merely shout about inclusion; we must actively practice inclusivity in our daily lives. Our words must align harmoniously with our actions. Ben calls upon organizations to lead by example by including people with developmental disabilities on their boards and within their ranks. He advocates for the meaningful employment of individuals with developmental disabilities and encourages organizations to actively engage with and become integral parts of the communities they serve.

Memes and videos possess a unique ability to cultivate the kind of empathy Ben advocates for, providing a powerful medium for storytelling and visual representation. Unlike other forms of communication, videos, in particular, engage our senses and emotions simultaneously, creating a more immersive and impactful experience. Through compelling narratives, relatable characters, and authentic portrayals of diverse perspectives, videos can transport us, allowing us to step into the shoes of others and see the world through their eyes. Open Future Learning intuitively understands this profound potential and utilizes it effectively. Their program contains videos created by leaders in their fields, harnessing their expertise to educate and enlighten. On Open Future Learning's social media platforms, they leverage the power of video to challenge prevailing stereotypes and promote inclusivity.

Open Future Learning's engaging social media videos delve into various topics such as dating, smoking, sex, privacy rights, and personal autonomy, to name a few. These videos approach these subjects with sensitivity and a touch of humor, effectively promoting a deeper understanding of the diverse needs, desires, and inherent rights of individuals with I/DD.

One exemplary video, "Johnny Ran," masterfully harnesses the power of poetry to tell a poignant story. It portrays an adult with a fervent passion for running, unjustly prohibited from pursuing it and facing severe consequences for seeking moments of joy on their terms. While going out for a run may be commonplace for neurotypical individuals, those with I/DD often encounter doubt and discouragement regarding their motivations and desires, thus limiting their potential. These videos deliver a resounding message: it is our collective responsibility to genuinely listen and seek understanding. Intriguingly, these videos have faced criticism from those entrenched in the existing system while receiving overwhelmingly positive responses from the public. This stark contrast underscores the urgent need for a paradigm shift and a reimagining of current support systems.

Excitingly, Open Future Learning is collaborating with Stay Up Late, a charity founded by a British punk band disheartened by witnessing their fans with disabilities leaving shows before the band even took the stage. Stay Up Late's mission is to disrupt rigid support systems that restrict individuals with learning disabilities from enjoying late nights. Together, Open Future Learning and Stay Up Late are creating social media videos that promise laughter and thought-provoking moments. Founder Ben expresses his enthusiastic anticipation for these upcoming releases, hoping they will amplify Stay Up Late's impact and ignite meaningful conversations about inclusivity and empowerment.

The world is undergoing a profound transformation, and with it, the essence of caregiving is evolving. Modern caregiving entails embracing empathy and deeply understanding the individuals entrusted to our care. It is not peculiar, intriguing, or remarkable that individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities possess wants, needs, and desires just like anyone else. They deserve to be taken seriously, respected, and unfettered by those around them who should provide genuine support. They require assistance to unlock the doors to their desires and guidance as they embark on their learning journey. Furthermore, they need unwavering support and understanding as they navigate and process their experiences. All of this is simply part of the natural fabric of life. Nothing extraordinary or out of the ordinary about it.

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Advocacy
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8 min read
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August 16, 2023
Re-Route Magazine

Committed to publishing the work of emerging and accomplished writers.