Every few years, we ask ADWA members about where they think we should concentrate our efforts. Here are the priorities identified in 2015, in order of importance to our members.
Advocate for fair compensation. As expected, nearly everyone said ADWA needed to continue its advocacy for improved wages and benefits. In addition to pressing for the 5% that was promised but not delivered by the previous government, ADWA continues to argue that wages should reflect the significant skill level of disability workers and be sufficient to live on with a single full-time job. Our 2015 survey found that about 25% of workers hold two or more jobs in the sector.
Create credibility with certification. The next most common priority was recognition of disability worker skills with a credentialing process. Our members take great pride in their profession and the positive impact of their work on others. They want standards of practice that produce consistently good support for individuals. In addition to supporting compensation advocacy efforts, certification processes will raise awareness of professional standards and increase professionalism within the field.
Increase professional development opportunities. The opportunity to develop professional skills through education and training has gotten harder over time. Members said skill development through education and training is important to them and that ADWA should advocate for more opportunities and funding for both agency-based and family-managed disability workers. A skilled workforce is the best guarantee of safety and quality of life outcomes.
Increase ADWA membership. Because ADWA's funding base is its membership dues, increasing membership means more money to support ADWA activities and increased member benefits. ADWA pursues a variety of ways to increase its visibility in our sector and to provide value recognized by potential members. Our Perkopolis member perks program provides a variety of ways for members to save significantly more than the cost of their ADWA membership each year on clothes, technology, travel and more.
Increase public recognition of disability work. There is little public understanding of what skilled workers do and how it improves the lives of people with disabilities and their families. “Service provision” becomes “caregiving” in their eyes, which is interpreted as “babysitting.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Our profession needs consistent job titles and classifications that we can promote to the public to create a better understanding of our skills and impact on those served and the community at large.
Support worker health and safety. Human services work in general and disability work in particular has a high rate of WCB claims and stress leaves are far too common. ADWA has developed information on occupational health and safety rights and best practices designed to keep workers safe. We partner with other organizations, such as ACDS, on various safety-related initiatives.
Oversee employer treatment of disability workers. While ADWA is not a union and, therefore, does not involve itself in employee-employer disputes, we can suggest resources for members and try to address systemic problems we hear about repeatedly.