The CBR Matrix Reloaded

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes” (Morpheus, The Matrix, 1999).

What would be your choice?

Would you rather choose the option of believing what you want to believe, or see reality as it is with its ugliness, surprises, complexity and uncertainties? Personally, the blue pill sounds great to me as I like to define the world in my own terms and frames. It keeps things in control and I know what my part is in this world. I believe that many of us are like me and through our (often not so objective) studies and research projects we feel in control of the world around us.

Sometimes however, especially during times of reflection and meditation, I suddenly realize how powerless we are as human-beings in this extremely complicated world.

In our field of disability inclusion, especially when working with cultures and in countries other than our own, we like to contribute to the wellbeing of people with disabilities. From our good intentions and many efforts we try, amongst others, to understand how we can achieve inclusion. The CBR matrix with its five components of health, education, livelihood, social life and empowerment is a perfect example of how we do this. The CBR matrix helps us to understand in what aspects of life people with disability need to be included. As long as we take account for the 25 elements we will be able to enhance the wellbeing of people with a disability and their families, we think.

Although the CBR matrix provides us the tools to structure and manage our efforts, it traps us in this ‘blue pill world’ in which we want to see what we want to believe.

In our work with and for people with disabilities, we often encounter issues that do not fit the CBR matrix. What about the role of religion, the family structure, technological developments, alternative economic systems and maybe even - fear not - inclusion in sex, drugs and rock and roll? Surely some of you will raise your eyebrows when reading this, but truthfully, shouldn’t we be more open for this beautifully complex world in which we cannot define our lives nor put the lives of others into boxes?

You might think that expanding the matrix is the simple solution to make sure no aspect of life will be overlooked. Yet, Morpheus rightfully remarks ‘No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

If we seek inclusion and are willing to understand the lives of others, we should realize that life is a Wonderland and entails countless flavours, colours, and preferences. Although structures help us to give meaning to the world, these structures are meant to serve us and not the other way round. If we want to understand the needs and preferences of people with a disability we need choose ‘the red pill’ and to be open to everything that comes our way.

Figure 1: Enablement’s alternative CBR matrix, which shows a different perspective on the elements of, and ways to enhance, the lives of people with disabilities.