Initiatives present innovative pathways to inclusion
Lisa Bailey

As they prepared for posAbilities annual general meeting this week, Tanice Miller and Linda Eaves agree that fellow members of the organization’s board of directors bring a strength of diversity to the table.

The 11 members represent a mix of professionals in health and social/development services as well as legal and other sectors, providing a depth of understanding not only of the people served by posAbilities but also more technical aspects of governing an organization.

Both Tanice and Linda also cite the presence and participation of self-advocates who are very active in a number of organizations and directly represent people who have disabilities.

“They contribute their own voice and provide an understanding to the board,” says Tanice, who became vice-president within a year of joining the board in 2004.

Linda adds that board members uphold the highest level of respect and democracy while representing a range of viewpoints.

The director of program development and administration at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice in Vancouver, Tanice’s background centred on health care when she came to the board to contribute in a different way as a volunteer.

Now stepping down from the board, Tanice reflects on seven years of education and inspiration as she’s come to know and appreciate the work of posAbilities, the strengths and abilities of the people it supports, and the dedication of staff.

“For me it’s been a growing experience to walk side by side with (people with disabilities) and to get to know them,” she says.

Tanice says posAbilities is a “very well-run organization” with a “real sense of purpose and commitment for making better lives” for people with disabilities.

“I think the foundation is very strong and . . . it excites me to watch how they will grow,” she says.

“It’s always inspiring to be part of an organization that works so hard and believes so hard in what they do.”

Linda, who’s worked in child development for about 40 years, says posAbilities’ mission to help everyone reach their potential is vitally important, particularly now that a generation of people with disabilities and their parents have expectations for full inclusion and opportunities.

A registered psychologist specializing in the diagnosis of children with autism, she applied to the board in 2008 at the urging of a board member who is a friend and paediatrician.

Linda says it was a good fit.

“As I was thinking of other things to do, the notion of posAbilities was appealing because they work with mostly adults with the same condition that I’d been dealing with for years in children, so it was kind of like my clients had grown up and now were with posAbilities.”

Both Linda and Tanice cite the board’s support and leadership in adopting the name posAbilities and solidifying a vision and strategic plan for the organization as highlights of their tenures.

Tanice says the name change especially represents a “rejuvenation of a great vision for the organization,” as it emphasizes the positive abilities of people to be valued members of society, and the ways that can happen.

She and Linda are excited by the creative pathways to inclusion developed, such as the Can You Dig It initiative, which empowers people with disabilities as they develop skills and connections while growing food with neighbours in the community for the benefit of all and the environment. Another positive spin-off is the economic inclusion that comes from this initiative.

Don’t Sweat It  is an example of an innovative employment strategy that has also evolved over the past year. It is posAbilities’ first social enterprise and has provided services to the community gardening initiative, such as building the garden beds, and to other clients. This social business was created to employee individuals who had previously participated in work experience programs.  The transition has resulted in supported individuals becoming employees, and gaining access to a fair wage and benefits, including workers compensation coverage and pension plan contributions.

Tanice says supporting such progressive steps while ensuring the organization remains strong and viable is a key function for the board to move the vision forward.

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