invest in inclusion or invest in exclusion: the choice is ours! presentation to the international...
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DESCRIPTIONWhen talking to the general public about disability and accessibility, this is often what comes to mind: they see a person in a wheelchair who cannot get through the door. These types of barriers remain of course, and I am sure right here in this city someone will go out looking for work tomorrow and experience this very same injustice. But today I want to talk about a different type of barrier, a different level of injustice: what if the very people and systems that are supposed to be supporting a person with a disability to have success in the community are deliberately investing in keeping them out of the community? What if they are discouraged from even trying to get through the door?
- INCLUDE to make/welcome someone as a part of a group, community, or society EXCLUDE to prevent or restrict someone from participation or consideration as a part of a group, community, or society Keenan Wellar World of Good Practices July 13, 2014
- Its great to be a part of this incredible initiative, the International Summit on Accessibility. One of the challenges in speaking to those of you here with me today is that you likely have a great deal of life and professional experience around issues of accessibility, so I doubt Ill be breaking much new ground. Rather, I hope to contribute to a dialogue around inclusion and exclusion as it relates to a particular marginalized population that does not as yet have a very strong voice in the accessibility conversation.
- When you talk to the general public about disability and accessibility, this is often what comes to mind: they see a person in a wheelchair who cannot get through the door. These types of barriers remain of course, and I am sure right here in this city someone will go out looking for work tomorrow and experience this very same injustice. But today I want to talk about a different type of barrier: what if the very people and systems that are supposed to be supporting a person with a disability to have success in the community are deliberately investing in keeping them out of the community? What if they are discouraged from even trying to get through the door?
- FOR PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL & DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, EXCLUSION OFTEN MEANS NOT ONLY BEING FACED WITH BARRIERS TO COMMUNITY INCLUSION, BUT BEING DELIBERATERLY SEPARATED AND SEGREGATED FROM NON-LABELED CITIZENS AND THE COMMUNITY. HOW FAR HAVE WE REALLY COME FROM THE DAYS OF THE ASYLUM FOR IDIOTS?
- On December 9, 2013, Premier Kathleen Wynne rose in the legislature to issue a formal apology on the behalf of the Province of Ontario for the neglect and abuse suffered by people with developmental and intellectual disabilities at the Huronia, Rideau, and Southwestern regional centres. These mass institutions represent the most dramatic symbols of the investment of our society to segregate and separate people with intellectual disabilities from their communities. But closing these buildings ended neither the practices nor the attitudes that have kept segregated infrastructure going for the entire history of our country.
- WHY DO I CARE? I DONT WANT PROTECTION FROM BEN
- In case you are wondering, heres the brief answer to Why do I care about any of this? Thats me in the black and white tuxedo in 1986 at high school graduation. Two years later I applied for a part-time job working with youth with developmental challenges. I applied for the job by mistake, because I thought a developmental challenge referred to kids from low income families. So although I found the interview questions to be very strange indeed, I somehow got the job. And thats when it happened. For the first time in my life, I met a person with the label Down syndrome. I met a person with the label of autism. Heading home that night I found myself overcome with feelings of sadness and anger. Why? Because I realized at that moment that these people had been hidden from me my entire life. As a kid they were hidden from me in special schools and special classrooms. As adults they were in group homes and day programs and sheltered workshops. I knew this was wrong and I vowed to one day do something about it,. Because I dont need protection from a kid like Ben, and Ben shouldnt need protection from his own community.
- HOW DO I KNOW? I HAVE BEEN THERE AND DONE THAT. THE POPULARITY OF WHAT WE DO IN HUMAN SERVICES CANNOT BE THE STANDARD BY WHICH WE JUDGE OUR OUTCOMES!
- In 1995 my wife Julie Kingstone and I started the charitable organization LiveWorkPlay here in Ottawa with the goal of doing something very different. But with the best of intentions, we soon found ourselves building segregated infrastructure and programs, like day programs and sheltered workshops. The good news is, of our own volition, we took a lead role in putting a stop to this more than 7 years ago, but you have to understand that right now sheltered workshops and other site-based segregation is not only continuing, but growing, with much of it supported by taxpayer dollars.
- So why should people with intellectual disabilities All live together? All work together? All play together? (Adapted from hope-house.org)
- When you confront leaders that make segregated settings possible and question why we are investing in deliberately keeping people with intellectual disabilities out of society, the answers vary slightly, but they all tend to be formed around the idea that there is just so much that these people cant do and that its therefore a type of blessed mercy that that they can experience the safety of exclusion from their own community. Is supporting a life in the community easy? No, its complicated and messy, and wonderfully so. There are few citizens who would accept anything less that those opportunities and possibilities and its a violation of fundamental human rights that some citizens are excluded from the path of life.
- If you have an intellectual disability, its not such a good thing to be "SPECIAL" SPECIAL PEOPLE Stigmatized. Pitiable. SPECIAL PROGRAMS Limited. Dream-Crushing. SPECIAL PLACES Isolated. Segregated.
- This type of special treatment is not something any of us wants. It means being stigmatized as incapable, ongoing relegation to isolation and dream-crushing environments, and continuous limitations imposed on your life according to what other people think about you.
- VISION: A COMMUNITY WHERE EVERYONE BELONGS. MISSION: HELPING OUR COMMUNITY WELCOME PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES TO LIVE, WORK, AND PLAY AS VALUED CITIZENS. VALUE: PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES ARE VALUABLE CONTRIBUTORS TO THE DIVERSITY OF OUR COMMUNITY AND TO THE HUMAN FAMILY.
- These are the guiding statements of LiveWorkPlay, and not to say we arent proud of them, but the concepts dont vary much from agency to agency. The problem is, except in very rare circumstances, there is no internal or external oversight applied to make sure that the outcomes match the mission. In fact, more often than not, the work of developmental services agencies contributes more to exclusion than it does to inclusion!
- EXCLUSION INCLUSION Whats Our Investment?
- How bad is it? First of all, its difficult to know, because aside from a smattering of agencies that are challenging themselves to do the right thing, no one is keeping track. My own research combined with data from the United States data which is superior to anything we have in Canada - indicates that about 80% of our resources go towards infrastructure and activities that serve to exclude, and only 20% that supports inclusion like having an apartment, a job, real friends, and non- segregated social and recreational activity in the community. In other words, what most of us would think of as an ordinary life.
- BEYOND REMEDIATION BEYOND ACCOMMODATION VALUE
- Are these investments in segregation a result of trying and failing to support inclusion? No. Mostly, it is not attempted at all, despite decades of evidence that shows group homes and day programs are almost always destinations, not life journeys. When Royce, pictured here, was first introduced to LiveWorkPlay he had just been featured in the newspaper as in need of 24/7 constant care. He certainly had a big stack of papers explaining all of his problems. And yet within one year he was living in his own apartment, and within two years had become a valued employee of Dow Honda. It all started with the simple process of asking Royce what HE WANTED out of life. Unfortunately our human services infrastructure often has difficulty seeing human beings as more than their stack of files. We all deserve to be more than the labels others apply to us.
- LOWERING THE BAR 20 YEARS AGO: MATT WILL NEVER WALK OR TALK 2 YEARS AGO: MATT, A PAID JOB IS NOT FOR YOU
- Earlier presentations at this conference have referenced high rates of unemployment for people with disabilities. Mostly because they are not even supported to try, the unemployment rate for people with intellectual disabilities is upwards of 75%. Our investment in exclusion means that access to the community is denied through the constant lowering of expectation. The bar was lowered for Matt right from birth, when his parents were told hed never walk or talk, and much more recently, that he should probably forget about his dream of having a real paid job. We helped Matt acces