Daniel Vandenberg with Enabling Good Lives Taranaki co-chair Craig Nielsen.
When Daniel Vandenberg was born his parents were told he would live for fewer than four hours.
”And I wasn’t meant to walk, talk or anything like that,” he said.
”But I was the first person in Taranaki with a disability to be in a mainstream classroom at primary school. And secondary.”
People with disabilities have been told by professionals this is the box they fit in, they have to work within this box, Vandenberg said.
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And for the last 20 years he has been in a ”box” being told what to do, so after a couple of stressful situations with the care he was receiving he decided to see how he could change things.
”So, instead of having six different people over seven days coming in to help (with his care) I can now choose who I have and when I have them. It’s made a hell of a difference. I can now plan my week.”
He feels like he has more control over his life, he said.
”I used to say to the company, ‘I’m not 94. I don’t sit around waiting for your guys to come in and give me my meal at 4.30. I’m 46. I have a life I need to live’.”
Vandenberg will share his story at workshops around Taranaki run by a steering group called Enabling Good Lives Taranaki that he co-chairs.
The national body, Enabling Good Lives (EGL), is a partnership between the disability sector and government agencies to ensure that disabled people have greater control over their lives.
The workshops are for people from zero to 65, with any disability expected to last longer than six months and includes whānau, caregivers and service providers.
Growing up Vandenberg wanted to be treated as a ”normal person.”
”People would look at me and say ‘oh, you’re handicapped.’ I still get that today, but I don’t listen to it as much.”
At least once a week, as he drives around New Plymouth in his mobility scooter, someone will yell out of their car window that he is ”handicapped”, he said.
EGL Taranaki steering group co-chair Craig Nielsen said the workshops are about hearing people’s stories and then helping them to start looking at what ”a good life looks like for them, how they can articulate that and achieve those things.”
“What does a good life look like for me, and how do I go about doing that? We’re providing a safe place to share stories and then providing the tools to live a good life.”
One of the principals is ”mana enhancing”, Nielsen said.
”We’re working with a sector of society that has been under respected, undervalued and under resourced.”
The first workshop starts at 11am at the TSB Hub in Hāwera on September 27 and the second is on September 28, at the TET Stadium in Inglewood.
Later there will be workshops in Bell Block, New Plymouth, and Opunake.