TASH Participation in European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities Conference

Written by Martin Agran

On Sept.26-28, 2013, four National Board members: David Westling, Emily Titon, Whitney Rapp, and Martin Agran participated in the annual European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) conference in Istanbul, Turkey. EASPD is an organization of European Service providers for persons with disabilities dedicated to advocate for the needs of adults with disabilities so as to improve employment, residential, and other quality of life outcomes. Members of this organization come from 28 European countries, most of which are European Union members. The organization seeks to find, promote, and advance a common values-driven agenda across varying cultures, languages, and histories.

The invitation to participate was extended to David Westling, President of TASH. EASPD was well aware of TASH’s history in promoting equal rights, full community involvement, and quality life experiences for all citizens. The Executive Board of EASPD felt that their organization and TASH worked with a similar values base and believed that a potential partnership would be beneficial to both organizations. TASH’s participation in the conference represented a first step in establishing such a relationship.

The TASH presentation was an invited keynote address. David provided an overview of our organization (e.g., mission, goals, values set). Then, Emily discussed the importance and involvement of self-advocates across all aspects of the organization (e.g., governance, advocacy). Next, Whitney discussed inclusive practice—its critical role in the TASH mission, how it is manifest, and how it can be achieved. Last, Martin discussed Research and Practice in Severe Disabilities, as well as other TASH publications, and TASH’s commitment to promoting research and evidence-based practices. In particular, TASH’s ability to balance both values-driven and research-driven initiatives was highlighted. During the conference there was time for individual EASPD members to meet with the TASH delegation to ask questions they may have, discuss possible research activities, and to share and disseminate information and materials. It was the opinion of all TASH participants that these interactions were as, if not more important, than the keynote address, and it is very possible that a future partnership(s) will be based on such bottom-up efforts. It should ne noted that practically all EASPPD members indicated that they were very pleased that we were at their conference.

Although there was discussion about possible ways in which a meaningful collaborative relationship between TASH and EASPD were discussed, no specific goals were identified as it was felt that each organization should identify such goals, contingent on their needs and ambitions, before a contractual agreement can be developed. A tentative set of goals and desired outcomes will be submitted to the TASH International Committee, and a recommendation will be presented to the TASH National Board for discussion and approval. Following this action, EASPD will be asked to respond to the TASH Action Plan.

In all, TASH’s involvement in the conference was important and may be of value in the future if a partnership agreement can be developed. At the very least the individual interactions with EASPD members may result in collaborative activities. Of particular meaning was the fact that TASH is indeed achieving international reputation as an organization that has improved the lives of many individuals with significant disabilities, has advanced a research agenda to identify and support best practices, and is perceived as a critical partner in affecting positive change in other countries. Details about this potential partnership will be shared with TASH members as they develop.