Frontline Initiative Code of Ethics

A vital tool:
Self-advocacy leader Carrie Varner shares insights on the Code of Ethics

A woman, Carrie Varner, standing in front of a Self-Advocates Minnesota poster at a conference.

Frontline Initiative interviewed Carrie Varner to learn about her insights into the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) Code of Ethics. Carrie is an empowering leader in the Self-Advocacy Movement. She serves as a Board Member of The Arc Minnesota, in addition to her work with Advocating Change Together (ACT) and the Self Advocates Minnesota (SAM) Network.

How did you learn about the NADSP Code of Ethics? 

Carrie: I heard about the NADSP Code of Ethics at a convention that myself and three other self-advocates hosted for various agencies in Southern Minnesota. The convention focused on how to implement self-advocacy into their curriculums and philosophies. 

Why do you think the Code of Ethics is important? 

Carrie: The Code is important because Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are here to help and assist people with disabilities to their fullest potential. If the Code wasn’t in place, people with disabilities, as well as DSPs, could be subjected to widespread fraud, abuse, and neglect. The Code cannot be left unchecked. 

Why is it important to speak out about the Code of Ethics?

Carrie: Speaking out about the Code is huge. Like many things in the world, new ideas and attitudes are constantly happening in the disability field. We need to speak out about how the Code can be implemented to best accommodate DSPs and individuals who receive supports. At the same time, we need to make certain that loopholes and bottlenecks don’t become the norm. These can create problems and obstacles in applying the Code. 

How do you teach DSPs and self-advocates about the Code of Ethics? 

Carrie: I assist DSPs and self-advocates to learn about the Code by telling them my story. My story includes what happens when the Code is exploited or not applied at all. This makes me want to book the next flight to Washington DC to advocate for our community and the Code. I know that when the Code is used as it’s intended, DSPs and self-advocates alike are much more successful. It promotes a better quality of life for everyone involved. 

How do you know when a DSP is living by the Code of Ethics? 

Carrie: A DSP is living by the Code when she or he is respectful. Also when a DSP goes above and beyond what is asked or expected. And importantly, a DSP lives by the Code when she or he promotes, teaches, and encourages self-advocacy.

What would you tell a new DSP about the Code of Ethics?

Carrie: I would tell a new DSP that the Code is a vital tool for DSPs and clients alike. However, if it’s utilized improperly or not at all, it will lead to widespread abuse and neglect of the system. This could lead to potentially devastating consequences. By working together to make the Code stronger, more effective, and better efficient, everyone will benefit in the long run. The community will benefit as well.

Carrie is passionate about helping individuals with disabilities attain their human and civil rights on a local, state, national, and international level. She currently lives in Marshall, Minnesota and is looking at moving to the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area to be closer to the action.