Team manager says community of belonging and engagement is taking shape
Lisa Bailey

Envisioning a future of full inclusion and integration for people who have a disability, posAbilities team manager Gerry Fremming points to a few trends that foster this movement.

She says service providers are creating opportunities for people who have a disability to experience life to the fullest through social and economic inclusion.

“It’s pretty exciting that in the last few years we are seeing more of a movement towards true inclusion,” says Gerry, who has already seen significant change in 25 years in the field.

“I think there’s a recognition that inclusion is not just about living in the community, it’s about ensuring people with a developmental disability are contributing and members of society, and being valued and appreciated for who they are, especially in relationship to the whole of community.” This means a quality of life enriched by relationships, friendships and activities as well as access to services and gainful employment.

Gerry is especially excited about customized employment services that haven taken shape in recent years. They include posAbilities Employment Service, which helps to match individual skills and interest with employer needs. This initiative, which marked early successes, strives to create opportunities that promote beneficial and lasting relationships in communities.

Gerry says these efforts facilitate true gainful employment, with the individual contributing and integrating in the workplace with natural support from coworkers.

Partnerships formed with business, arts, environmental and other communities are also facilitating inclusion and empowerment. For example, posAbilities Can You Dig It! initiative collaborates with municipalities, the MOSAIC organization for new Canadians and other community partners to create food-growing gardens. This community-building work by people who have disabilities, their neighbours and community members is yielding many benefits while involving approximately 700 people.

The benefits include heightening awareness of the skills and contributions of people who have a disability. They also attain positions of leadership as part of the planning process.

Can You Dig It! Is also ripe with opportunity for social connections. Gerry recalls, while working in one community garden, seeing a neighbour talk to an individual who has a disability and extending an invitation for a coffee date.

“It’s not just about the gardening and sustainability, food security and all those benefits, it’s the things that grow out of it besides vegetables,” Gerry says.

“It’s this type of partnering that will build relationships, and it’s based on respect and recognition that people with a developmental disability have gifts, abilities and contributions to make,” she says.

– Watch for more on what Gerry sees in the future

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