Community Participation Initiative
The Community Participation Initiative makes it possible for children and adults with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of community life, as they choose. The goal of the Community Participation Initiative is to create partnerships with community agencies that offer activities that are open to all citizens.
We then provide to these agencies the assistance they need to welcome and include people with disabilities. The Community Participation Initiative is funded through a contract with Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
In the Community Participation Initiative, we have developed a unique approach and methodology to our work.
When we began the Initiative, we assumed community agencies would welcome people with disabilities. Our assumption has proven to be correct. When they open the door, we provide them with ongoing coaching and training – benefiting not only people with disabilities, but the general public as well.
Methods for the Community Participation Initiative
We’ve developed the following methods for the Community Participation Initiative:
- We don’t create parallel or separate programs in which people with disabilities are isolated from others who take part in the agency’s programs.
- We assist the child or adult with a disability to figure out what activities he or she prefers.
- We don’t impose our preferences on people with disabilities; we work to find organizations that have those activities in place.
- We assume agencies will provide a welcoming environment, and our job is to help them provide it.
- We enlist the buy-in and endorsement of program directors and staff.
- We provide technical assistance to help program staff make any necessary accommodations to their programs.
- We provide on-site coaching to agency staff, either one-on-one or in group setting.
- We assist them in modifying programs and making necessary accommodations.
- We are available when problems arise, providing concrete solutions.
What does successful community participation look like? The Arcadia Institute has identified specific benefits and outcomes to help measure successful community participation for both individuals with disabilities and the community.
Benefits of successful community participation
- The opinions and interests of individuals with disabilities are valued. They are making their own choices, building relationships and learning new skills.
- The Arcadia Institute provides the training and support for community agencies that helps make inclusion happen successfully.
- The Community benefits when it sees that it is a positive experience for everyone involved when they include individuals with disabilities.
Outcomes of successful community participation
- Choices – An individual will make choices about matters that affect his/her life.
- Various Environments – An individual will experience participation in a variety of community environments in the same manner as people without disabilities.
- Relationships – An individual will have opportunities to develop a network of relationships that ranges from the more intimate to the more casual, everyday interactions.
- Competencies – An individual will gain the competencies necessary to participate in community life.
- Respect – An individual will gain respect from others and enhance self-respect.
- Contributions – An individual will add value to the common life of all citizens by making contributions that are valued and that would require someone else to do them if he/she did not make those contributions.
If you would like more information about our methodology and how the Arcadia Institute works, please feel free to contact us.