Robert Fournier extends his hand and introduces himself with a friendly smile. It is lunchtime at the Developmental Activities Program (DAP) but he takes time out from his meal to chat about his life at the Association.
Robert doesn’t live in a group home, but stays with Steve, his caregiver, who has provided private home care for Robert since 1991. Robert’s sister Bertha Johnson says that it just “seemed right” for Robert to live with Steve rather than go into a group home situation. Robert went to stay with Steve for only a week or two in the beginning, but it has turned out to be a long term arrangement.
Robert started in the woodshop Swan Industries 1989-90. It was not the best environment for him because of mobility issues. He found the wheelchair awkward in the shop and he also found it difficult to tolerate the dust. Robert worked at Swan Industries for about three years, mostly doing cleaning jobs. He now is a regular participant in the Developmental Activities Program (DAP) where he helps with paper shredding.
Robert’s sister Bertha has been his guardian since 1987. She has many memories of Robert as a young boy, the fourth youngest in a family of eleven children. Bertha remembers Robert as a “rascal.” She says he was always very mischievous and still likes to tease. Bertha describes Robert today as “easy going and very talkative.” He goes to the gym and pursues all his interests despite being in a wheelchair.
Robert has not always been handicapped. He was a licensed mechanic who was involved in an accident in 1987, which resulted in a program of extensive physiotherapy and life in a wheelchair. Bertha says that Robert was very angry and frustrated after the accident but has since found a way to lead his life on the best terms possible.
Bertha sees programs like DAP as important for the handicapped. She says it is great to have activities and work for persons with disabilities to participate in during the day. The social aspect is also valuable.
As far as Robert’s future is concerned Bertha wonders who will step forward to care for him when she is not around. She hopes it will be someone from the family.