The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for August 2011

Committed to Inclusion: YMCA Sherman Lake Camp

The Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center strengthens the spirit, mind, and body while instilling an appreciation of our natural environment. And they do this for everybody because they are committed to providing all children with an opportunity to have a great camp experience.

For the past several years, The Arcadia Institute Community Participation Initiative staff has provided training for Sherman Lake counselors so that they can include children with disabilities. This year Lorrie Syverson, Director of Camping, Education & Retreat Services and Diahnn Austenfeld, Intern and University Relations Director and Integrated Education, decided to incorporate how to include children with disabilities throughout all of their week long counselor training, rather that emphasizing disability in a separate session. WOW that is demonstrating a commitment to inclusion.

Also, through the Community Participation Initiative, we had an Intern available to go out to camps if they needed coaching and assistance to support a camper with a disability who may experience extra challenges in a camp environment. This summer, although we provided financial assistance for several children to go to camp – Sherman Lake never needed our Intern. They intentionally hired some extra staff so that they could support all campers. WOW! Again, they are commitment to inclusion.
If you want more information about the YMCA Sherman Lake Facilities visit

Lena’s Best Work

Lena is a knitter! She loves to knit and she calls here original creations “Pillow Monsters.” Lena has wanted to promote her art on line, but because of her low vision she could not create a Facebook Page by herself.

Recently, we purchased software called ClaroRead so that as Lena types on the keyboard her computer says the letters and words she has entered. Now Lena’s Facebook page is up and running. She can regularly update it independently without relying on her community living support staff having to be there.

Lena is also beginning work on a book. It has been a dream of hers to write a book about her life experiences as a person with disabilities who’s determination has resulted an independent life for herself.

Check out Lena’s work at Lena’s Best Work.

What does an “Inclusive” Organization Look Like?

In the Community Participation Initiative, we assume that community organizations will be welcoming to people with disabilities. They will include whoever would like to engage in the programs they offer that are open to everyone. People with disabilities are respected and supported to participate and not segregated into “special” programs. And for the most part we have found this assumption to be correct.

In April 2011, a Network was formed as a result of Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of The Arcadia Institute and Its Partners. The Network has been meeting monthly and has been working on the development of a Commitment to Inclusions Checklist. This checklist can be a tool for organizations to use to determine where they are intentionally being inclusive and where they might want to make some adjustments – so that all people can belong in their activities.

What might you like to see on such a checklist? What do organizations do that make all people feel welcome? What can all people do to support people with disabilities so they can successfully participate in our community?

Please share your comments with us below or
or visit us at The Arcadia Institute Facebook Page.

Anyone is welcome to come to The Network meetings. The next one is August 22 from 9AM – 11AM at the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo on Maple St.

Conversations about Community

This week the blog is George Martin’s thoughts about broadening our Community Participation work.

As we move deeper into community participation, both horizontally and vertically, we are gaining a keener appreciation of the how people are connected and how different aspects of our lives are intertwined.

Our focus in the Community Participation Initiative has been on leisure time activities that people chose in which they may need some assistance and support. As we understand the term ‘meaningful activity’ in all its dimensions, we realize that our work is affecting related areas like volunteering to help others and gaining key skills needed to get and keep a job.

Our work affects an individual’s choice of living environment and friends, as well as physical and emotional well-being. As we become more conscious of our impact, we are re-shaping our work to have a more intentional impact on all areas of life.

A timely message along these lines came from John O’Brien recently informing us of the release of a new book he edited with Carol Blessing, entitled Conversations on Citizenship and Person-Centered Work. The conversations include a number of thought leaders in our field, including Beth Mount who has a history with us here in Kalamazoo. You can get a copy at Inclusion Press

Volunteer Recognition

Recently, one of our participants who volunteers was honored with an award at Heritage Community. We received this information from Barb Fish who is the volunteer coordinator:

Holitan received recognition as Adult Volunteer of the Year at our Annual Volunteer Recognition Breakfast on May 13th. He began volunteering at Heritage Community in 2010 at the Upjohn Care Center where he calls Bingo once a week. Our Best Friends Training teaches volunteers how to have “KNACK” when engaging with residents. Holitan’s KNACK, as a Best Friend, is his wonderful voice in calling Bingo. He is enthusiastic, cheerful, and demonstrates patience and compassion with everyone around him. Holitan is very committed to volunteering and is a good example of our mission “to celebrate life and honor the soul.”

Thanks to Heritage Community for being so welcoming and supportive of Holitan for over a year. And congratulations to Holitan for his commitment!