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“Thank U” signs – where do DSPs fit?

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Signage, symbols, and how we say "thanks" to DSPs

Recently while walking my dog, I’ve seen “Thank U” signs like the one shown here, speckling the yards of the neighborhood. Colorful and thoughtful, they are a good reminder of the essential workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic. The sign includes symbols for various professions: there are badges for healthcare workers and first responders, a truck for delivery drivers, cart for grocery store workers, a book for teachers, and a broom for sanitation workers. As my pup sniffed her way through the grass, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where are the DSPs here? What’s their symbol?”A "Thank U" sign with colorful symbols for essential workers sits is stuck in the grass by a sidewalk.

On the one hand, none of those symbols specifically recognize direct support professionals. On the other hand, it dawned on me that all of those symbols are relevant to the role of direct care and the many roles they play. They provide first aid and a sense of safety and security. There are trips to the grocery store, meal preparation, or teaching life skills. All of these symbols seemed relevant. 

Where do DSPs fit?

Of course, I don’t mean to take away from the training it takes to be in any of these roles, each with unique demands. Additionally, I know that the symbol itself isn’t what is important here. But where are the direct support professionals in the narrative of selfless acts that we are seeing across the country as the nation and the world battle this pandemic? And outside of this time of crisis, how are DSPs recognized in the news and in their communities? Do they fall under health care workers? Are they coaches, drivers, or chefs? All of the above? None of the above? 

Recently, I’ve heard stories of restaurants that generously offered healthcare workers free coffee or donuts on the way to their shifts. DSPs who stopped by were disheartened when asked, “What’s your job? What do you do? No, that doesn’t count.” And yet they show up as essential workers, donning masks and gloves, providing essential support.

Being a champion for DSPs

So how do you as a leader recognize the many roles that DSPs play within your own organization? How do you champion for them in the broader community, educating people outside of the field that this work exists and is important? And widening the lens a bit further, how do we include the people they support in the story, reminding society that people with disabilities not only exist (and are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus) but also have a multitude of interest, roles, and needs?

I don’t know what the symbol would be if I were to remake this “Thank U” sign. And maybe the symbol itself doesn’t matter. What matters is how people feel seen, appreciated, and respected for the work that they do and the contribution they give to society. Some of you have put out your own signs recognizing staff. Thank you. How will you champion your DSPs today and tomorrow for the essential work they do? 

For more on how Quillo can help you celebrate DSPs everyday, contact [email protected] to learn more.

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