The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for September 2011

Giving Back to My Community

“I would like to volunteer – especially with places for children. I remember growing up there were so many people and groups, like Easter Seals, who helped me – I want to give back.” Erika

When we first met Erika, she had just moved into a new home Kalamazoo. She was learning her new neighborhood, getting her household organized and finding her way around town. While this was going to take some time, Erika wanted to get involved as soon as possible. She knew that was the way for her to feel like she really belonged in her new community.

First, Erika began volunteering for Housing Resources, Inc. (HRI). She helps with all kinds of clerical work. The HRI staff really enjoys Erika’s positive attitude and ability to do filing work. She brings these skills with her from when she was a file clerk in a family member’s law office.

Now Erika is thrilled that she has been accepted as a volunteer receptionist for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Kalamazoo. She has also interviewed for the possibility of becoming a Big Sister.

While Erika is giving back to her community, HRI and Big Brothers/Big Sisters are providing her with opportunities to share her gifts. Don’t we all feel like we belong to our community when we give back?

Portage District Library: Not a “Shushy” Place Anymore

Last Friday, we provided training to include individuals with disabilities in all aspects of the programs provided by the Portage District Library. They had called on us because while they have been very open to having anyone from the community use the library – there are certain situations unique to a library that they felt they needed some information, coaching and support. In particular, Christine Berro, Director, feels they need to be responsible for making their facilities and programs accessible for all. They don’t want anyone to think they cannot be there because they will be “shushed.”

While researching what libraries can do to be inclusive, we found that there are many resources available to help libraries improve physical access to facilities, equipment and materials. However, there is not a lot of information about how to support individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities or behavior challenges in actual library programming. How do you accommodate children with autism into the reading hour? What can the library do to ensure that an adult with intellectual disabilities can participate in a poetry writing class?

We provided basic information about how to welcome and support individuals with disabilities. The topics we covered were a) various types of program accommodations, b) person first language and c) supporting positive behavior. For example, we gave them ideas for how to work with someone with autism who might have difficulty following directions. They can use pictures, written signs or specific concrete language.

Following our presentation and interactive learning opportunities, we offered the library staff an opportunity to brainstorm. They came up with several adaptations for programming accommodations for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities or behavior challenges that they had not (nor had we) thought of before.

Stayed tuned as the Portage District Library creates innovative ways to welcome and support everyone in their community to participate!

Join Us

Since March 2010, a group of people committed to Building a Community of Belonging has been forming a Network. This is a group that represents many people in our community who welcome, support and respect individuals with disabilities. We are always looking to expand our Network; therefore, below we extend an invitation to you!

Kalamazoo: A Place Where All People Belong

Join us for a networking breakfast and conversation about including people with disabilities as we continue to turn to the community to create a place where all people belong.

When: September 22, 2011 from 9AM – 12N

Where: Comstock Learning Center – Map
1063 River St.
Comstock MI 49048

What will we do:
Network during a Continental Breakfast
Update on Network Activities since March 2011
Announcing the March 2012 Forum date
Discuss the Commitment to Inclusion Checklist

Please think about the following questions:
What are you good at with your Hands – what do you do well?

What are you good at with your Heart – what are you passionate about that you actually take action on?

What are you good at with your Head – what are you really knowledgeable about and could maybe even teach?

RSVP if you haven’t already to Allison Hammond
269-217-2205 or

Being In Community

This week’s blog was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute.

We use the term ‘being in community’ now, but when I started working as an advocate on behalf of people with disabilities in the mid-seventies, the prominent term was ‘community placement’.

Community Placement meant putting people who lived in state institutions back into the community. They were ‘placed’, that is, the decisions about where they would live, with whom, in what kind of home were all made by professionals in the institution and professionals working for local community mental health programs.
When we talk about ‘being in community’ today, we mean being an integral part of relationships with people you choose to be with and who choose to be with you, taking part in activities that are meaningful to you, living where you choose to live and with whom you choose.

And yet, we know that ‘being in community’ is not the driving principle for so much of what happens to people with disabilities. Many decisions are still made by others, and control over how one spends one’s time often still lies with professionals. The predominant model is still a clinical model, rather that a pattern of support that leads to community participation.

In our efforts through the Community Participation Initiative we believe that we are moving toward a point where ‘being in community’ becomes the watchword. We think that this shift entails not just working with the individual with a disabilities but also working with the community to help it resolve some of its problems.

‘Being in community’ means being a full community participant. It also means taking responsibility for one’s community.