The Arcadia Institute

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

Sarah: In Action with Others

The blog this week was written by Allison Hammond, Program Director at The Arcadia Institute.

Leadership is taking initiative with others to make impact that improves the community.

Sarah is the Chair person of the Regional Interagency Community Council (RICC) for the Kalamazoo area. The RICC is a community collective of people with and without disabilities who are committed to advocating for people with disabilities. She also chairs the Public Policy Work Group for RICC. Recently, Sarah was appointed to be a liaison from the Kalamazoo region to the statewide RICC network.

Sarah takes this work very seriously.

Sarah was very active in the movement to have the Michigan Legislature approve Medicaid Expansion in 2013. Not only did Sarah actively and persistently collect signatures of a few hundred voters; she personally arranged several conference calls with RICC members and our local Legislators in order to have conversations with them about Medicaid Expansion. She and others shared with the Legislators what the expansion would mean for services for people with disabilities.

More recently, Sarah is involved with communications to Legislators about issues around Employment First. Just this week, Sarah led a conference call with Legislators to discuss the practice of people with disabilities going to work in “enclaves” or groups being considered competitive employment. She and RICC members talked with them about their concerns about this practice limiting people with disabilities from being considered by employers to be hired as individuals.

As Sarah leads this advocacy work, she is constantly communicating with others about the importance of speaking up and being part of the action. She has learned how to become more tactful and diplomatic in her communications, while being true to her convictions. She reads legislation and helps other RICC members understand what it means so that they can have informed discussions.

Sarah also has her own successful cleaning business and had a contract to clean for a local enterprise.

When are you running for office, Sarah?

Learning to Lead

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

The main purpose of Community Brokering is to connect people with disabilities to live a full community life as they choose. This is done through the person working with a Community Broker who does three basic things: 1) gets to know the person, 2) facilitates Personal Future Planning meeting and 3) continues to follow up on the plan as needed.

Once the participant has experienced these three things listed above,the rest of the journey depends largely upon the participant’s willingness and ability to begin to assume more levels of leadership for their own lives. One great example of that is Greg. Just when I thought that Greg had reached a plateau of sorts,with being more active and connected in his community, I find that he has begun to exhibit a newfound sense of leadership and control over his on life.

Greg was frustrated with intermittent supports from living assistants and made the decision to move to Self-Determination. Now Greg leads his employees as they together expand into the community with grocery shopping, socializing and exercising. Greg pays closer attention to grooming himself as he is in pursuit of a relationship with a significant other that would be a good fit. He’s more likely to have an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends outside of his current community of primarily service providers.

Greg has also taken the lead on stepping up his game in community volunteering and registering for more Art Classes. As a result of also being promoted into a summer Assistant Art Instruction position Greg continues to pad his resume with skill set and references. He reports of an upcoming gallery display that will be shown at a local Coffee Shop soon.

Greg steps out into broader social circles as well and has invited his internet friend of four years to come to Kalamazoo and hangout physically together.

The greatest of suggestions and opportunities fall by the wayside until we personally take the lead to change the direction of our lives. Greg continues to inspire me to press into leadership when it gets hard for me at times. That’s another side of Community Brokering that is a benefit. Community Brokers and members of the participant’s ever-expanding Community Circle often learn more about how to become a better leader while watching our participants grow.

Vision: Leading Your Life

This week the blog was written by Jennifer Goodwill, Community Broker for The Arcadia Institute.

Recently, I had the opportunity to facilitate a Future Planning Meeting for a woman named Sharon. Along with my colleagues at The Arcadia Institute, and Sharon’s Supports Coordinator, we gathered together to listen to Sharon talk about her goals for her future , and we spent time developing action steps to move her toward her future interests. As part of the process, we talked about Sharon’s strengths and skills. An important strength that Sharon possesses is her ability to have a vision for her future. Sharon is able to visualize where she wants to go and what she wants to do. Even though her circumstances right now are not easy, she knows that there are possibilities ahead for her that will bring her the happiness, comfort and security she so strongly desires. And , very importantly, she is able to keep that vision strong in her mind as she faces the uncertainty of change and the challenges of working toward her goals.

Having vision is a leadership skill that does not come easily to all people. Having vision means seeing beyond your current situation. It means having high expectations and believing that the future you imagine is achievable. Having vision is about movement. You don’t allow yourself to stay stuck with where you are right now. You start taking steps that will move you toward where you want to be. The key is to not give up and to keep your goals at the forefront. Just because you run into challenges or have set backs, doesn’t mean you should give up on your picture for the future.

During the Future Planning Meeting with Sharon, we talked about the fears and difficulties she will have to work through to get from where she is today to where she wants to be six months from now. We encouraged her to hold strong to her vision of her future and to keep moving ahead. Just because she knows where she wants to be doesn’t mean the path ahead is going to be an easy one. But, as we told Sharon, with her ability to visualize the future she wants, and her willingness to do the work that needs to be done, we believe she is going to accomplish her goals. Sharon is a strong woman and we can’t wait to see where she is six months from now.

By Inclusion We Mean Community Participation

This week the Blog was written by Allison Hammond, Program Director, The Arcadia Institute

By “Inclusion” We Mean “Community Participation.”

Recently, I was asked very specifically by a Georgia Learning Journey guest and Dalanna Hoskins, new Community Broker, about how The Arcadia Institute and our Connect Kalamazoo partners define “inclusion.” That is a very good question and caused me to reflect on some of the blogs we have written on the topic in the past. I went to our training materials to see what we have distributed in the community.

For us at The Arcadia Institute, we prefer to use the phrase “community participation” as a way to look at inclusion. When people with disabilities are fully participating in the community with others who do not have disabilities that is true inclusion.

A person with disabilities is participating and fully included when the person is:

* Making choices about activities that a person enjoys
* Taking part in the activities with others who do not have disabilities
* Building relationships with other participants, co-workers and neighbors
* Gaining skills that can be used in the activity and in other places in the community
* Being respected and treated like others in the organization
* Making contributions by using their gifts and talents to move the organization forward.

The Connect Kalamazoo Network has created a Commitment to Inclusion Checklist that you can find at this link. Please feel free to use it with any organization that you think would be interesting in being more intentional about having people with disabilities participating in their programs and activities.

For more information about The Arcadia Institute or the Connect Kalamazoo Network please contact Allison Hammond, 269-217-2205 or

The Gifts From Georgia

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in on one of the sessions for our guests on our Learning Journey. Four of the five were from Georgia, three attended my alma mater, North Georgia University.

Chatting with them was like a mini home visit. One of the topics we covered was our common tie to Beth Mount and John and Connie O’Brien.

It reminded me that so much of what we have been doing with community participation and lately community brokering can be traced back to the visits from these three for workshops here in Kalamazoo.

The ‘Georgia Mafia’, as I referred to them, back in the 80’s brought so many of the ideas that have influenced our thinking about people belonging to and in the community and about methods to enhance their participation, including the techniques we are using for person-centered planning.

We constantly remind ourselves that so much of the solid thinking was done a long time ago and that much of what we need to do today was what people like Beth, John and Connie were saying then. It is important to acknowledge the lessons from the past and to continue to draw upon them. It is also great to renew to Georgia connection.