By Dr. Yona Lunsky
"Be my microphone, not my voice."
This week, our community lost one of its greatest thought leaders and action takers. Indeed David Hingsburger stood out not just because of what he thought about and shared with others, but because of what he said, how he said it, and what he did about these ideas most important to him. And he didn’t just say what he needed to in a way everyone could understand it, he came up with new and creative ways to help others to do the same.
H-CARDD had a very special relationship with Dave. Dave founded a little newsletter that grew into the International Journal for Direct Support Professionals, which came out monthly and can be found now in English, French and Spanish. It introduced a new topic each month with practical insights and resources for frontline staff. H-CARDD was able to develop 15 articles for this audience ranging from talking about poop, men’s and women’s health, HIV, Health care waiting rooms, emergencies, and mental health, and mortality and I was also able to write about families, grief, and most recently pandemic recovery. With Dave’s vision, and some brilliant colleagues from Vita Community Services, we worked together to develop a suite of tools to help DSP’s navigate healthcare to improve the health of the people they support. We also designed a series of health care communication tools that put the person with the disability in the driver’s seat when it came to their health.
Dave was a big fan of data and knowledge translation. In his words: from his February 2019 blog about our HCARDD project looking at health care and health care access for people with developmental disabilities.
"My thanks, both as a professional and as a disabled person, for doing radical research that ‘speaks truth to power’ … you are constantly creating facts in an arena where opinions and anecdotes used to reign. Because of your work people in general, but most importantly, people in power can’t ‘not know’ this. It matters. It shows that the lives of people with intellectual disabilities are on the line. It affirms the idea of both ableism and disphobia as a constant theme and a constant threat in the lives of people with disabilities. I am in awe of your commitment and your courage." - Dave Hingsburger
But here is the thing; I have always been in awe of the commitment and courage of Dave. Dave was a sort of truth barometer. He encouraged me to find my own voice, amplify the voices of others, and help all of us to collectively speak our truth. If I had something to say, I could share it with him and say: Is it ok to say this? Is it too hard to understand? Did I go too far? Is there a perspective I didn’t consider? He always responded honestly, quickly and kindly. He didn’t mince words and he helped me to avoid doing so as well.
He was a truth sayer. And he was such an astute observer. He helped us get the point with one image, one quote, one story, and he pushed us to give a damn and do something about it. About people. About each other.
I hope we can honour Dave’s memory by giving a damn, being the microphone for others, and speaking our collective truth.