The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Entries for September 2010


This week, we wanted to share a really nice thank-you note that we received from one of our partners, the Boy Scouts. We are so thankful for our partners who are committed to moving our mission forward!


Dear Allison,

Please thank your entire team from me for the AWESOME training you provided for the Camp Rota-Kiwan Summer Camp Staff. Every member of the staff learned a lot. It was a great experience. I overheard several comments from junior staff about how they are going to use parts of the training all summer long.

Thanks Again
Buzz Wheeler, Director
Southwest Michigan Council of Boy Scouts
Camp Rota-Kiwan

People always surprise me!

This week, Jill Angel, Lake Street Unit Director from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo is our guest blogger. The Boys and Girls Clubs have been a great partner of ours and we are thrilled to have her share a story about what’s going on with their organization.


I long and hard about a theme for my blog, and came to the above theme because it describes all of my experiences I have had working at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo. I mainly work with kids, and their imagination and wisdom keeps me on my toes all day.

This particular story has to do with a generous longtime parent of the Club. As some of you may know, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo has been around for over 50 years, and since that time we have done a lot with our building. When we built the Douglass Unit, our Lake St Campus’s main room was painted to match the Douglass Unit to bring some consistency with the two units. Since then we have painted two other rooms.

At the end of this summer, Bob Ezelle our executive director was approached by one of the parents, Willie Starks, who works for the Lowes. I wasn’t in the meeting, but the result was that we were able to pick paint colors for our art room, studio, and all purpose room. As you can imagine, we were so excited because we were able to break free of the white walls!

The story gets better because Lowes donated the paint to us, then the workers and managers used their vacation days to paint the rooms. They also replaced old ceiling tiles in all three of those rooms. The biggest surprise happened when, one day, I drove into the parking lot and saw the manager of Lowes raking and pulling leaves in front of our building. I noticed that the landscaping looked different. There was new cedar mulch, all the bushes were trimmed and the trash was all picked up. The manager was standing there with his rake in his hand, and he asked me what I thought. I was speechless, because there were so many times that I wanted to work on our landscaping and so many times that I just didn’t have the time or, let’s be honest, the energy.

The end of the story is that we have three brightly colored rooms with new ceiling titles. We have a beautiful front lawn, which all came from people in our community giving back to our kids. People really do surprise me in how much they care in this community. We all need to be grateful that we live in Kalamazoo! We are forever grateful to Lowes, and the words “Thank You” will never be enough. Just a little TLC on our building made a huge difference, it got everyone excited again. Yay! For the new school year!

– Jill Angel

What is Normal?

This week’s blog is from George Martin.

What is normal? I have heard that question uttered in a variety of ways ever since I became employed in the disabilities field in 1975.

In the mid 1970’s the primary philosophy informing the work of people with cognitive disabilities, and other developmental disabilities, was captured by the term “normalization”. The normalization philosophy was first articulated in the Scandinavian countries and later in a more comprehensive manner by Wolf Wolfensberger in his book entitled Normalization, The Principle of Normalization in Human Services.

Wolfensberger defined normalization both as an end and a means. That is, a person with a disability would have become more like ‘normal’ people’, if the correct guidance were provided for them, and the methods used to reach this end would be as close to those experienced by the rest of the population considered to be ‘normal’.

Even as this philosophy was embraced almost universally in the disabilities field, I frequently heard people refer to people being treated like normal, then in a self-conscious afterthought say, ‘whatever that is’.

I think it is time to pay much more attention than we have to ‘whatever that is’. Wolfensberger’s thinking contained a couple of deep flaws at the time it was popular. First, he bought into whatever the mainstream culture defined as ‘normal’ as the acceptable. Secondly, for him normalization was moving away from deviancy toward a more acceptable way for a person with a disability to be and to behave.

Since the mid-70’s we have learned that what the mainstream culture considers to be acceptable is not always desirable, and it is not nearly so clear today as back then what ‘normal’ really is. People of different ethnic and racial origins are more numerous in this country than Caucasians. The total number of people with some kind of disability, or other kind of significant problems, is no longer the distinct minority it once was.

Look at your own family, your own children, yourself. Are those ways that you and they differ from others so unlike other people. The old phrase we used to use “like you, different” is more the norm today than the term ‘normal’.

Photography: A Participant’s Story

In previous blogs, we have talk about working with the Kalamazoo Nature Center and have focused on the summer camp programs for children. However, we have started to create ways for Participants who are adults to be involved in some different ways. One of our Participants, John told us that he loves photography. Now, he volunteers at The Nature Center and pursues his interest in photography. Here is a recent interview with John about his experiences at The Nature Center.

Tell me about yourself:
I’m John and I like to take photos of nature, leaves, the sky. I also like to play video games. I work at a movie theater.

What do you like about photography?
What I enjoy about photography is that it is one of my hobbies. I like to take pictures of leaves in the fall and the sunset at Lake Michigan.

What are you doing to use your photography hobby?
I’m doing photo-monitoring of stair erosion on the paths at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. In May, I liked taking pictures of the stairs because they were very interesting. I also took some pictures of the sky. And it was a good hike to walk the paths because I need the exercise.

What other photography did you do at the Nature Center?
The opportunity to be a camp photographer at the Kalamazoo Nature Center came when Allison was looking for more ways for me to do photography.

What did you like about being out at camp?
I enjoyed chatting with the campers and learning some things. Hanging out with the kids was fun. It was nice to work with the camp staff, too. One of the camp counselors was someone I went to High School with. He said’ “You look familiar. You went to High School with me.”

What did you learn?
I learned about habitats and also I learned about history of the trails.

Would you like to take pictures at camp again next summer?
I want to go back again next summer. And the reason is that I’ll get to meet more people and stuff like that.

This month, John will go back to photograph the stairs around the Nature Center property. He is getting to be a familiar face and people look for him to be there. In other words, in addition to John’s family and work, he has found another place where he belongs.