We had over 250 people attend the world cafe. They were SKILLS Society staff, individuals we support, families, PDD staff, U of A CSL staff, U of A students and community members. After a great speech from Lewis Cardinal on the importance of stories to effect positive change we engaged everyone in a conversation about citizenship.
For the discussion we had 4 questions to frame the conversation. The themes from each conversation were captured below.
1. SHARE A STORYOF WHEN YOU EXPERIENCED ENGAGED CITIZENSHIP
Engaged Citizenship stories from our round tables discussions, produced themes of determined actions combined with chance unexpected connections.
“Citizenship can be around activities, interests, shared experiences, etc”.
“Stepping out of our own personal box”.
“Citizenship is about responsibility, but it is also about stepping up and making a choice to be active”.
“When I chose to relocate to Alberta and attend Woman’s Studies at the University of Alberta. Woman’s Studies was like a Society or club. I felt extended into the community primarily through volunteering”.
“An engaged moment happened when I was shopping at Sears one Christmas time. A women screamed – ‘stop that man, he stole my purse’. I intervened and was followed by another person; then another; and another until the police arrived. I felt a real sense of community”.
“When you volunteer with a dog rescue society you are joining forces with people who love dogs and who all have a goal of making a difference”.
“While I was helping out at a homeless shelter, I began to talk to people that I normally wouldn’t have spoken to and I realized we aren’t that different except for the poverty”.
“I attended a community league free barbecue, for the free food, and got connected to help build a new skateboard park for the community. I have a young son who will now have a place to play when he gets older”.
2. WHO OR WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX ABOUT COMMUNITY AND CITIZENSHIP? ANY STORIES TO SHARE?
The theme that emerged from what has inspired us to think outside of the box about community and citizenship, was to remain open to different perspectives and then you will discover new possibilities.
“We need to be open minded and aware that there are endless possibilities to learn from”.
“It’s inspiring to see people with disabilities push for inclusiveness despite all the barriers offered by society on a daily basis. Some people are extremely positive and resilient regardless of how they are perceived and welcomed”.
“Our own families/children can inspire us when we think about what kind of connections we want for our children and their children”.
“As a Community Connector, we find that community isn’t always about where you live. It can be about people connecting through interests, and common threads”.
“Community fulfills a sense of belonging”. “People need to get out in the community, go to bars, coffee shops, gyms, etc”.
“The little things in life are what are important and people with disabilities really help us to see that through their excitement”.
“I was involved in the Rossdale Plants discussions. There were groups everyday and thousands of people contribute. Lots of stuff and ideas generated. Opens your mind to what is going on in your community”.
“Heritage festivities- the president of Uganda group at Heritage days said that anyone could join in and he was very welcoming”.
“I was inspired by neighbors looking out for Individuals we support. See something wrong and they will follow up and make sure everything is okay”.
3. “IT FEELS LIKE SOMETIMES WE ARE TREATED LIKE 2ND HAND CITIZENS. NO MORE 2ND HAND CITIZENS.” WHAT DOES SECOND HAND CITIZENSHIP LOOK AND FEEL LIKE?
- See people for who they are
- Careful on how you label people, Don’t judge people
- Feeling like I’m not a citizen because community is not accessible
- Being excluded and marginalized
- Lack of choice in how your life unfolds
- Privacy for people with disabilities is less important
- The feeling that “I am insignificant”.
- You feel like you are not good enough, not clean enough and not intelligent enough.
- My cousin is in a wheelchair and plays on a men’s team that has both non-disabled and disabled men on it and after their games they all meet up at a restaurant and the restaurant staff never acknowledge the men using wheelchairs.
- Coming into an Individuals house without knocking or ringing the doorbell.
- Forcing or suggesting that you have to stay with others like yourself only.
- That you can’t date who you want.
- Alberta government has people with disabilities low on their list of priorities when it comes to forming policy and distributing funds.
- Within the system, sometimes it can cause or lead to feeling like a 2nd hand citizen. Safety is sometimes counterproductive – “prisons of protection”. A safe nice time vs a great adventure.
4. ANY IDEAS FOR HOW WE MIGHT ENHANCE THE EXPERIENCE OF CITIZENSHIP FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES?
- Start with gaining an understanding of a person’s gifts, dreams, interests
- Share something you have to connect with your neighbours
- Make sure Community Disability Services are focussed on people not systems
- Focussing on enlisting natural support – aim at fading out
- Balance protecting people and their need to explore community
- The need to focus more on citizenship
- REALLY Listen To What People Want
- Services think we know people’s gifts but we don’t
List of Suggested Ideas:
- Understanding the different cultures, religions of the Individuals we support
- Staff get to know the neighbourhoods, what’s available, what’s of interest, what’s a shared interest, where is this shared interest.
- Staff supporting an Individual to connect with another person within their community of interest so when staff leaves or fades out a member of the Individual’s community of choice will step in.
- A SKILLS calendar of fun things to do and encouraging family and friends to come and share the experience.
- Birthday parties and ensuring the Individuals get to invite people, inviting friends over, Christmas open houses, parties at the Individuals homes.
- Build on small steps until getting more connected
- PR movement to bring attention to the disability movement to change society’s views
- Continual discussion and reflection on how supports are offered. Take action one person at a time
- Sharing success stories
- To get involved in community. Eg: not always going to programs that involved special needs exclusively.
- Seniors drop in- supported a elderly man with taking him to a seniors group with people more his age and more willing to accept him.
- YMCA- took an individual there and she was so excited she said “wow this is a place anyone can come to.”
- Cater to what the individuals want and really listen
- Involve people with disabilities in decisions about their lives
- Give opportunities to try different things
- Be out in the community, meet the neighbours
- We need to stop worrying so much about potential problems.
- Identify person as a person with gifts and interests not as their disability
- Teach people with disabilities that they have the power to demand change. Educate them that this is their life and they need to be the ones to change it/demand change.
- We all make mistakes and we all learn from them, let people take risks