A major challenge in achieving this mandate is addressing the incredible diversity of individual learning styles and capacities of folks. Annual training should include how to exercise rights as well as list them in a way similar to Miranda rights (‘you have the right to receive mail, you have the right to make and receive phone calls, etc., etc…’) The training curriculum will have to account for the cognitive capacity and learning style of each individual. This suggests having access to a variety of materials and approaches which may be adapted for particular individuals. One size never fits all when it comes to human rights training.
An additional consideration for individualized human rights training is to maximize choice by considering how the person might best be able to exercise rights in a way that is personally meaningful. The lifestyle, preferences, support needs, and type of services that the person is receiving will have a lot of relevance in determining in what areas to focus. For example, choosing where one wants to live may be crucial for one individual, while for another it may be more relevant to participate more fully in health care decisions.
If we can provide training on exercising human rights that is appropriate to the individuals’ learning style, capacity, and ISP objectives, and if we can focus on areas of the individuals’ lives which are important to them and plan for success, we will succeed in making teaching human rights a part of every day life. In this way, it will not be an extra duty for staff to perform. It will not be a once a year, once a month or even once a week exercise for individuals. Teaching human rights will become a perspective which is applied to activities and decisions of everyday life, be they big or small. What we are having for dinner tonight, what doctor do I want to see, where do I want to work, what channel do I want to watch on the TV, why does city trash collection pose a problem interfering with my household maintenance and to whom do I complain, etc. … By utilizing an individualized approach to teaching about human rights we may also be able to make the learning process a regular part of daily life.
One additional resource for Human Rights Officers identified in the regulation notes that training and opportunity requirements are to be provided “with technical assistance of the Department” [115 CMR 3.09 (3)(b)]. What technical assistance can the DMR provide for those Human Rights Officers who must foster learning in such an all-encompassing, global manner?