19 June 2015

Call for PCA Story Submissions

This post is from a friend and fellow activist, Sarah Rizzuto. 



Call for PCA Story Submissions

Photo: Sarah Rizzuto (using a wheelchair) smiling at the camera.

Hi, everyone,
My name is Sarah Rizzuto, and I’m interested in assembling and publishing a collection of nonfiction stories about personal care assistants (PCAs) and the disabled individuals who employ them. If you have worked as a PCA, or if you have hired PCAs to help you or a loved one, I invite you to submit a personal account of your experiences, whether they are funny, frustrating, frightening, heroic, heartwarming, humiliating or anything in between.
Your submission should be true, no more than five thousand words, and sent to the dedicated email PCAStorySubmissions@gmail.com by September 1, 2015. If typing your submission is not the best way for you to communicate your story, I’m open to assisting you in any way I can. I will also make sure that all stories are kept confidential by changing the names of the characters and authors as requested. I hope that this will allow those who submit to feel more at ease in telling their stories.  
My hope is that I’ll receive enough stories to publish a collection that will target a broad audience. Many readers may know caregiving only through the lens of hiring someone to help an elderly parent; this collection will instead focus mainly on PCAs’ work with younger disabled adults.  All stories are appreciated.
Although I have editorial experience, I have not declared myself editor of this collection. I’m open to having co-editors and would love to hear your suggestions via email. The details will be worked out later. At this time, I’m accepting stories and will go from there based on your response.
My interest in this topic comes from personal experience. I was born with a disability called Cerebral Palsy. Ever since I was young, I’ve needed assistance with my everyday care. These include tasks such as showering, dressing, preparing meals, housekeeping, and being driven places. Although my parents still assume a caregiving role occasionally, I now, at the age of 33, live on my own. Even as I write “on my own,” I know that implies that I now accomplish everything without help. This simply isn’t the case and never was.
From elementary through high school, various adults were employed by the school systems to assist me. At nineteen, I entered college and took on the role of employer. Although I had no experience hiring, training and firing PCAs, I had to manage the whole experience. My quality of life was at stake. The young women I employed throughout college were diverse in their personalities, abilities and work ethics. Many of them were close to me in age. College was our common denominator, which meant that in the midst of laundry and grocery shopping were nights filled with break-up monologues, textbooks and bureaucracy. I knew that despite the craziness of college and juggling caregivers who were constantly late, blatantly rude and often tipsy with the ones who were punctual, respectful and creative; it was nonetheless a protected environment. PCAs were within walking distance, I had overnight care, and counseling services and on-campus police were a phone call away.
After finishing ten years of college, I filled out fifty applications to get on waiting lists for accessible housing. I considered myself lucky that I had to wait “only” two and a half years for an apartment. I then had to wait several more months until I interviewed and hired seven PCAs, covering all my shifts. Now, my pool of applicants is not confined to a college campus, and support isn’t as easy to reach. But just like in college, there are the moments with my PCAs that bring smiles, tears, uncertainty and complete appreciation.
Caregiving is more complex than just the stories of the disabled folks being cared for and/or directing their lives. It’s a nuanced relationship between the caregiver and the disabled individual. I look forward to hearing your stories and honoring your voices.
Peace and access,
Sarah
 
 




   

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