The Arcadia Institute

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

Community Brokering…Why We Do What We Do

The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

At a recent staff meeting, we talked about our mission and why it is important to us. At the Arcadia Institute, we make it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their communities. It is not always easy to quantify the work we do, but through our experiences with individuals, we know our work has a purpose.

Our mission was exemplified for me during a recent MAP we completed with an individual. For confidentiality sake, we will call the individual John. John is in his twenty’s and lives at home with his family. But, he wants to move out on his own. He would like to get an apartment and he and a friend have talked about being roommates. His family loves him so much, they struggle with letting him be more independent because they believe he is vulnerable and they want him to be safe. It is hard for them to let go. As for John, he commented that he feels like all people see when they look at him is his wheelchair.

At John’s MAP (Making Action Plan), John had a chance to talk openly about his dreams for his future, and his family had the opportunity to voice their concerns. None of this was new information, John knows his family worries about him, and his family knows he has bigger goals and wants more for his life. The difference this time, is that everyone was together talking it through, and, with Community Brokering, we were able to lead the discussion to move beyond the concerns to talk about what action we could take together to move forward. Fears were voiced and acknowledged, but we pushed through to talk about solutions and ways to minimize worries. Of course, there will always be concerns. That is just a part of life when it comes to parenting and watching your kids branch out on their own. But, through the Community Brokering process, we are able to bridge the gap between where a person is today, and where they desire to be in their future. Families and individuals don’t feel like they are on their own trying to figure it out.

I think one of the beautiful things about Community Brokering is that we meet the individual where they are at and together we start building a pathway into the community. Individuals don’t have to go through an assessment and interview process to determine if they are eligible for Community Brokering. Instead, we are intentional about getting to know an individual, identifying their strengths and then moving forward with the support of their community. With some people, we take very small steps giving them time to build confidence and courage to keep moving forward. With other people, they are ready to go now, but need someone to run along beside them and help them to navigate the road ahead. Every person is different, so we have an individualized approach.

John and I recently visited some apartment buildings in his community. We are starting the process of supporting him in moving out on his own. It doesn’t mean he will move into an apartment next month. Instead, he is taking the smaller steps of learning to use public transportation on his own, getting out in the community on a regular basis to pursue interests of his choice, and talking to people who have faced similar experiences. John is hopeful because of his increasing independence and his family is seeing the possibilities that exist for John. The worries and concerns still exist, but with the support of Community Brokering, John and his family are building momentum to move forward.

Looking for Great Employees?

At the March 2015 Building a Community of Belonging Forum, we had a new Partner in Humphrey Products. This is the first local for profit manufacturing business that has joined Connect Kalamazoo. Linda Rynd, Human Resource Director for Humphrey was in attendance. Recently, I met with her to follow up on some ideas that she had for expanding Connect Kalamazoo into the business world.

One of the questions Linda had was about how can The Arcadia Institute support employers to hire people with disabilities. This was my general response:

Through Community Brokering, The Arcadia Institute staff has been working toward employment for some of the people we work with. We have found that we are most successful when we find the just right fit between the employer’s needs and the strengths of the person. When we find a job for a person, we need to follow up by making sure that not only the person is supported, but also employers. We coach the person AND we help the employer to understand any accommodations or how to instruct the employee with disabilities.

I also told Linda that we are also available to speak to co-workers about supporting employees with disabilities. We can help them to be aware of the benefits of having people with disabilities in the work force and general ways to help them to be successful.

If you would like more information please contact Allison Hammond at ahammond@thearcadiainstitute.org or 269-217-2205.

Hush, Hush Now….Voices Vary

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

“Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community” is the mission of the Arcadia Institute of Kalamazoo. Two weeks ago I presented two angles of several lights that radiate from the prism of inclusion: Genuine Compassion and Authenticity. This week I want to touch on the importance of and the role that voice plays when considering how inclusive you and your organization are.

Who’s Voice?

I’m certain that you have heard the statement before, nothing about us without us. If not, you might wanna read that sentence slowly again until you receive the message intended. Most systems have infrastructures of good intentions, built upon facts, data, research, projection etc. Again, we often make the mistake of not asking the persons, most impacted by programs, for inputs until situations arise that shed light upon that lack of including all voices. Including voices helps to determine who’s on the bus, should the bus be the vehicle, who should drive the bus, where should the bus go?

Voices vary. Some voices are colorful. Some voices are logical. Some voices are hidden behind fears. While other voices come from a place of privilege, power or ignorance. Some voices are emerging while other voices have been silenced for so long and spoken for that they parrot others or speak to appease rather than to identify and express their own true thoughts.

All voices are valuable. Perspectives unknown lie beneath those untapped voices. Sustainable successes are rooted in the inclusive circle of voices that plan and execute together based on what each one learns to hear and brings to the table. Understand that in order to establish and foster an atmosphere where voices are valued, expect to need some assistance at times. Expect for it to take more time to get to the hearts of the matters. Expect that it may get a little bit uncomfortable hearing truths that are new to the surface of conversations and discussions. Expect to be challenged and above all expect to grow.

In closing, the Arcadia Institute has learned that each and every person not only wants to be heard but needs to be heard. We constantly challenge ourselves about the language that we use, the assumptions that we make, the place from which we speak. Do we get it right all of the time? Absolutely not. But if we are to be about the work of our mission, voice must be at the forefront of what moves, with whom and to what end. Inclusion must be intentional. Are you inviting others to speak? Are you listening when they speak? Will everyone involved in your organization truly feel that their voice matters? Will it be reflected in the day-to-day operations? Will you find those voices in the material? The curriculum? The methods? The outcomes? Or will you just be talking to hear yourself talk? Because that may have been modeled before you. Who’s voices? Are you listening?

Contact Executive Director, Allison Hammond, PhD. at (269) 254-8224 for information regarding the Commitment to Inclusion which includes many layers of the onion peeling associated with becoming more and more inclusive.

Rota Kiwan Boy Scout Reservation: Making Inclusion Happen

Recently, for the seventh year, I visited the Camp Staff at Rota Kiwan Boy Scout Reservation to provide information about including scouts with disabilities. Each time I have gone to Rota Kiwan about one third of the Camp Staff is returning for the summer and have participated in my session. What a rewarding experience to have those who have seen the presentation join in the discussion. They share how what they have learned from The Arcadia Institute has impacted their ability to provide successful camp experiences for all scouts regardless of abilities.

I’d like to share one story that I heard from a Camp Counselor:

There was a scout who used a wheelchair and wanted to earn his swim badge. His Troup Leaders did not think it would be possible as he could not physically pass the swim test. The water front Camp Staff was a teenaged young man who came up with a solution. What if the scout could earn his swim badge by demonstrating that he knew how to keep himself safe around water. As a team, the Camp Staff and the Troup Leaders came up with a way for the scout to accomplish this goal. The scout was enthusiastic and worked hard to earn his badge. Other scouts supported him in this project. The Camp Staff later related to me that as a camp community they all learned about possibilities and opportunities that had not been imagined before.

This summer, I will be going to Rota Kiwan on a weekly basis to work with Boy Scouts who want to learn more about how to include scouts with disabilities in their own troups. These Scouts are future community leaders who be intentional about including everyone!

If you want more information about having The Arcadia Institute provide information and support for people with disabilities to participate in your organization contact Allison Hammond at 269-217-2205 or ahammond@thearcadiainstitute.org.

Authenticity and Compassion

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

“Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community” is the mission of the Arcadia Institute of Kalamazoo.
How different would our community be if every organization paid closer attention to how welcome and supported their customers, clients, students, members, volunteers and staff felt?

One of the ways in which Arcadia Institute digs deeper into the “how” is by being intentional about building inclusion into the fabric of our work. We start by holding each other accountable as team members. A lot of reflection and planning go into most all of the moves we make whether we are doing Community Brokering, organizing an Annual Forum, networking, researching, responding or discovering.

Like any prism, there are several points of light. For the purpose of attempting to provide some suggestions of inclusion “starters”, I will focus on only two of several considerations that Community Brokers MUST keep in mind when it comes to inclusion:

1. Authenticity

This word, when considered as important to inclusion, assists with the making of safer spaces. Not pretending to be who you are not. Not pretending to know more than you know. Being open to listening and receiving the voices of others. Willingness to tell your own story and to make space and encourage others to do the same. In more laymen’s terms, it’s kinda like “keep it real”. Acknowledging what’s in the room and what’s not. Having sensitivity antennas up and functioning in such a way that the team discerns that more time and attention is needed in certain rocky patches. Being willing to adjust the agendas to make room for the authenticity of the moment and everything teachable that emerges when safety is in place and maintained.

2. Genuine Compassion

Not everyone grows up in environments where they learn to be genuinely compassionate. However, when working with an intent to be inclusive, genuine compassion truly matters. Acquiring multiple compassion lenses equips you with the ability to embrace the value of persons as if they were blood relatives that you cherished. Genuine compassion makes room for persons to live/love beyond differences and beyond experiences. Conversely, lack of genuine compassion can contribute to inclusion accidents waiting to happen. Making plans, moves or assumptions from the head and not from the heart often result in contributing to persons not feeling included.

In closing, the Arcadia Institute designed and utilizes a user-friendly Commitment to Inclusion that helps organizations begin to asses just where they land on the scale of inclusion along with suggestions to address those findings.

Contact Executive Director, Allison Hammond, PhD. at (269) 254-8224 for information regarding the Commitment to Inclusion