Posted by Allison Hammond on Tuesday, January 28, 2014
The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.
At the Arcadia Institute, our mission is to make it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their communities. Through Community Brokering and Community Participation, our approach to carrying out this mission is to focus on the individual, connecting them to their community based on their interests and strengths. As we go about our work of helping them find places in the community where they may contribute their gifts, we bump up against challenges. Challenges like transportation, housing, and isolation. As we come up against these difficulties, we work with the individual to find solutions. We could put our efforts into addressing these larger issues and advocating for change on a large scale. However, we choose to be intentional about focusing on individuals and their specific choices. We don’t underestimate the value of small beginnings growing into a big impact on the community.
A year ago, we created a MAP for an individual. A few members of his family, along with a couple paid support people, participated in the meeting. 8 months later we needed to update his MAP. The room was filled with 4 more people from the community he had met after his first MAP. They gave of their time to support him and learn more about his goals.
Another young man wanted to improve his reading skills. His family felt like they were hitting dead ends trying to find help for him. After bringing his community together and learning more about the issue, we worked as a team to talk to the school and search the community to find literacy tutoring for him.
A young woman has started volunteering in the community. She has depended on her family for transportation. Now she is ready to take the brave step of learning to use public transportation and be more independent. She starts next week.
A woman is going through a difficult housing and financial situation. The stress is having a negative impact on her health. A few months ago, we helped her find a knitting group in the community. She thought it would be a meaningful activity that would take her mind off of her situation and help her meet new people. She now enjoys knitting hats and has donated 10 hats to children in our community.
By growing the good in individual lives, we see the beginnings of small changes that may grow and multiply to significant impact throughout our community.
Posted by Allison Hammond on Monday, January 20, 2014
The blog this week was written by Michele Momotiuk, Administrative Assistant at The Arcadia Institute.
Recently, I heard the expression “Grow the Good” and it really struck a chord with me. The speaker was talking about our food system and focusing on programs that work well and growing them instead of trying to fix all the problems.
A problem solving mentality starts with the assumption that something is bad, a problem, and needs to be fixed. There are many things that can get in the way of fixing a problem. For one, identifying the problem and getting people to agree on it is often a barrier. Then, many of the solutions that have been thought up to solve problems often create bigger and worse problems.
A “Growing the Good” approach is a more positive way to affect change. Find something that is working and doing good, and grow it. Focusing on what is good instead of what is a problem can be a mind shift that could be very powerful. Expanding on that good could have huge impact.
I see examples of this in the work my colleagues do with individuals. In the MAP process they use, they start with a person’s story, dream, and list the gifts that person has. They spend time figuring out how to grow those gifts and find places in the community where that person can share their gifts and work towards their dreams. By growing the good one person at a time, they are improving our community that is receiving the gifts that person has to share.
Posted by Allison Hammond on Tuesday, January 14, 2014
The Arcadia Institute Community Brokers have been working with people with disabilities for over a year now. We have started to see some fruits of their efforts that if we did not pay attention we might miss. One outcome is that often people do not need as much support from paid agency professionals to be successful in the community. Calculating just what this means for increasing the ability of the community to support people with disabilities and decreasing costs to the community is difficult, but here are some examples (names changed):
Bill now has a community person, Chris, in his life who helped him move, helped him get his belonging from a storage unit, and has invited him to spend time with his family. Chris also stops in occasionally to see how Bill is doing. Bill and Chris benefit from their relationship. Another subtle benefit for the community is that when Chris supports Bill, paid Community Brokers and Community Mental Health Supports Coordinators are not necessary; thus, it saves the community some financial resources.
Ginger added a community activity to her life by becoming the Secretary of an Advisory Group. When she first started going to the meetings she depended on paid Community Living Support people, Supports Coordinator or Community Broker for transportation. A member of the Advisory Group, Linda, offered to help Ginger by meeting her at her apartment and riding the bus with her. This has added to the relationship between Ginger and Linda, but it also saves the community money because paid staff time is not necessary.
Tony now works at a small manufacturing company. When he got this job, the company took the responsibility for training him and supporting him, knowing that it may take a bit longer for Tony to learn. Thus. Tony did not need to have a paid supportive employment agency provide job coaching. Co-workers have also made sure that Tony is included in company social activities so he has gained new relationships.
Eva was in a restaurant with a friend who knew the owner, Bob. When Bob stopped by the table to say “hello,” Eva asked if she could apply for a job. Bob agreed and hired Eva. The Community Broker met Eva the first few times she worked to make sure that she got on and off the bus on time, but Bob never asked that the Community Broker provide ongoing support. The restaurant manager and other employees support Eva as she learned the job. Eva is part of the team. This is another example of the community taking responsibility so that paid services are not necessary.
In each of these stories, the person with disabilities developed stronger community relationships. People from the community have experience that they have the flexibility and ingenuity to support people with disabilities. Also, there is a very practical cost savings benefit for everyone.
Posted by Allison Hammond on Tuesday, January 7, 2014
When I was a teenager growing up on the Eastern Seaboard of Georgia, I attended a number of revival church services. Each one ended with ‘altar call’, a time when the lights were lowered, the organist played background music like ‘Softly and Tenderly’ with its haunting refrain of ‘come home’ (meaning come to your spiritual home with God and Jesus). The culmination of altar call came as people got out of their seats and came and knelt at the altar.
Answering the call at altar time was a powerful experience, accompanied by a feeling of being lifted up. It was even referred to as being ‘on the mountain top’. I remember once after answering an altar call asking the minister, ‘What do you do when you come down from the mountain top.’ His response made it clear even to me then that he was virtually clueless.
I remember a more lasting reference to the mountain top in Dr. King’s last major speech before he was killed. He was warning the audience that his time might be limited, that he might not be with them when they attained the freedom he and they sought. But, he assured them that he had ‘been to the mountain top’. He had ‘looked over and seen the Promised Land’. I think this speech provided a moment of transcendence, or transformation, from ordinary time. Yet, Dr. King knew that no one can stay and live all their lives on the mountain top. We have to come down and life after the mountain top experience can become different in some important ways, but there will be continuity with life before the mountain top.
So, what does all this say about the ‘spirit of community future‘for people with disabilities? I think it says that life does have those moments of exceptional clarity and times that transcend ordinary time. However, life is mostly made up of continuous times in which action is taken that leads to other action. It says that we do not suddenly reach a point of transformation that causes the future to be totally different from the past and the present. We can have glimpses of what the future will be by recalling events and images of the past and current times. We can draw upon those glimpses to gain visions of what the future may be and how we may shape it.
I recall my friend Matt telling his mother that he no longer wanted to go to the mall with her or friends from the special school but that he wanted other friends. I can recall a young girl of five asking her mother why she had to ride that little special bus to school, rather than riding that bigger bus that all the neighborhood children rode. I remember Myrna Bartlett telling about the time she saw her son Tim with a group of people from the respite home looking badly groomed and unclean and vowing that Tim would have a different future. Then Myrna and Tim’s father Ed bought the house next door and made it Tim’s house with staff coming in to assist Tim to live like other people do. ‘Tim’s House’ became a symbol throughout the state for what an alternative live as an active part of the community could be.
I look around me today and I see staff at community agencies including children and adults in the programs they run for all people. I see dance instructors welcoming little girls with Down Syndrome into the classes for all little girls. I see a young man starting a job at a salary above minimum wage and being supported by his fellow workers and not a case worker. I see a man who was homeless living in his own apartment.
These memories and these current observations are a tapestry that points to what the future should look like, and will look like because once we let the community into the lives of people with disabilities and stop sending them the message that only experts know what to do with people who have disabilities, that broader community will begin giving direction to the professionals of the ‘disability field’ and not the other way.
The Spirit of Community Future for people with disabilities is one in which they come first and community comes first and the special professionals assume their proper place in the accompanying line. They will then carry on assured that there will always be a place for them there. It just won’t be a controlling one.
Posted by Allison Hammond on Tuesday, December 31, 2013
The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute.
The prevailing spirit of these times for people with disabilities is a mixture of people being acted upon and people taking more responsibility for their lives by becoming actors on their own behalf. The movement out of state institutions was clearly a positive one, and even though in and of itself it did not lead directly to full community engagement and inclusion, it did set the stage for an alternative future to lives that were almost totally controlled by others.
If I think of the ‘present’ as encompassing the time the consensus was to end the subjugation of people to live in a controlled state sanctioned environment until current times, it is encouraging to see that people with disabilities are experiencing a growing array of places where they are welcomed and valued. I see a growing number of people who are known for who they are as individuals, rather than as one among a collective group. I see people gaining more means, financial and otherwise, to support themselves. I see a community in Kalamazoo that is beginning to understand that people with disabilities enrich their personal lives and their organizations. I see the emergence of more and more physical means and attitudes to make it possible for people with disabilities to take part as valued members in the whole array of community activities.
And yet, –yes, yet–, there are still domains in which the rule is to segregate and subordinate because of disability. It is still acceptable and common practice to treat people as a group and to restrict their range of activities only to those in which people with disabilities are a recognized separate group. Parents are still reluctant to take their young sons and daughters many places in our community because it is too painful to see them as an unwelcome and unknown intrusion. The percentage of people with disabilities to the total population that have jobs is still shamefully low. The range of emotional and physical support systems necessary for people to take their rightful place in community is still restrictive.
So, the prevailing spirit of these times gives rise to a reasonable amount of optimism and an unfortunate amount of longing for better times. We are on a trajectory that can surely lead to a broad community of support, but we have yet to reach that ‘tipping point’ where there is a consensus that inclusion is better than limited participation.