Over the course of fall 2013, University of Alberta Community Service-Learning student Jordan Sifeldeen, interviewed Scott and his allies about his inspiring story which was featured at the Project Citizenship SNAP show in 2012.
Scott has a long history of advocating on behalf of himself and others. He presently is the Chair of the Self Advocacy Federation which is an Edmonton based group of citizens with disabilities who speak up, choose their allies, support each other to solve problems, create opportunities to talk and learn together and are busy establishing connections with other community groups. The Self Advocacy Federation are leaders for today and tomorrow and are proud to be who they are.
Scott is also proud to have obtained a position at Home Depot on his own initiative. He is a valued employee and a contributing member of his team. Scott is well respected in his position at Home Depot and has established strong connections with his colleagues and supervisor.
Scott’s story was told through a 360 collage demonstrating his connections and how well rounded his life has become through his community involvement and citizenship.
Scott: Definitely, the SNAP gallery really needed photos. They needed to see who I am and what I do, so I took pictures of me, my friends, my work, I took a lot of photos.
Juanita (Friend of Scott): Despite our time constraints, especially the fact that Scott is so busy, we all wanted to make sure that Scott was really able to tell the story himself. We gave Scott a camera, and he took photos of whatever he thought was important to document as part of his life, and then I took a few pictures as well so that he could be in them. We ended up with so many photos, and they were all so good, so we decided to pick up this huge IKEA lamp and display the photos around the outside so that it would stand out and be a central piece in the SNAP Gallery show. It really got a discussion started, in that people got to know Scott without him even needing to be there; seeing all the photos and how they were connected really illustrated the fullness and diversity in Scott’s interests and in his life.
Scott: When I walked into the SNAP Gallery and saw all the pictures there, and all the people, I thought, “Wow, is that me? Are these pictures really allabout my life?” Everyone was so supportive; I felt proud, and I think I made my friends and family proud too. It really changed my life, because people saw who I am and understood who I am.
Brenda (Friend of Scott): We also really had no idea that it was going to be as big of a hit as it was. We had over three hundred visitors; it averaged about fifty visitors a day. They were lined up outside!
“Seeing all the photos and how they were connected really illustrated the fullness and diversity in Scott’s interests and in his life.” Juanita
Brenda: Yes, definitely.
Juanita: Yes, when Scott and I were first discussing this project, we talked specifically about the context; project citizenship is all about people who are engaged in their communities, and we really wanted to show positive examples of success. This project really says, “This is what a full life looks like.” I think that it not only helps you understand Scott, but it also says a lot about yourself in that it allows you to think about your life and your interests in the same way.
Juanita: This community is kind of the unseen minority in a way, and our hope is that a project like this that gives light to a situation that isn’t that recognized yet might open the opportunity to empower other people to live a life as full as Scott’s – whether they’re “capable” or not doesn’t mean a thing. Everyone has the right to be valued where they live, and that’s what we hope this project could do.
“When I walked into the SNAP Gallery and saw all the pictures there, and all the people, I thought, “Wow, is that me? Are these pictures really all about my life? Everyone was so supportive; I felt proud, and I think I made my friends and family proud too. It really changed my life, because people saw who I am and understood who I am.” Scott
Scott: I’m involved with a group called “Self Advocacy Federation”, and we work to show who we are as individuals and as a group, we get involved with other groups, and we campaign to give people with disabilities the right to make their own choices about their lives (staffing, living situations, etc.), and help them develop their skills.
Juanita: They also bring to light the fact that they have the right to discuss these issues and come to their own decisions. There’s a lot of awakening that happens with new members when they realize that they do have these rights, which might have been overlooked or underestimated.
Scott: We really try to get exposure to issues that affect us. Sometimes we do rallies or meet in public places, but we also help individuals who are having immediate issues and need help right away.
What does being a good citizen mean to you, and how can people become better citizens?
Scott: To me, being a good citizen is about being who you really are and making your own decisions. We should all have the right to decide for ourselves what makes us happy and what kind of citizen we want to be. If people don’t feel very engaged in their community, they should get out more, talk more, and communicate more. People should be able to make their own decisions about their lives, and they should learn to respect other people’s decisions by understanding other people’s lives.
Brenda: And those things – freedom to make your own choices, a desire to be engaged with people, and a desire to be understood by other people – ultimately I think those are things we all want.