Dr Trevor Whitney

  1. Rev Dr Trevor Whitney, Uniting Church minister and Chaplain at Julia Farr Centre, Adelaide, South Australia. Lecturer at Uniting College for Leadership and Theology

Coming to the Front of the Chair: Accepting Vulnerability as a Pathway to Mutually Transformative Relationship with People with Intellectual Disability.

Utilising the image of a person with an intellectual disability being pushed in a wheelchair to and from a required destination by a volunteer or professional carer, the issue will be raised, at both a literal and metaphorical level, as to the nature of the relationship between the one pushing the chair and the one being pushed. A common discourse concerns the person in the wheelchair – i.e. the needful or objectified other, the client  – being in the hands of ‘the professional,’ ‘the expert,’ ‘the able bodied person,’ who controls the nature of the relationship and the requisite task. In this paper the presenter will raise questions concerning what is involved in the pusher of the chair coming to the front, turning, and facing the other person in a manner that invites the possibility of mutually transformative relationship, one whole human being with another. What are the barriers that inhibit the pusher making this journey towards authentic relationship? It will be argued that at the heart of this encounter the pusher of the chair needs to authentically encounter his / her human vulnerabilities in a confessional attitude so as to engage with the vulnerabilities of the other person in a genuinely human and mutual manner.