Committee identifies need for information on employment policy
Lisa Bailey

A collaborative forum and an information pamphlet on a pertinent employment policy for people with developmental disabilities were sparked from questions asked by self advocates.

This experience illustrates the importance of self advocates like those on posAbilities Self Advocates for Equality (S.A.F.E.) Committee.

“Self advocates are people that will be able to really identify the needs and wants of the community because they’re part of it,” says posAbilities staff member and S.A.F.E. Committee adviser Simone Brandl.

“If you have someone who supports them, they don’t understand as well as someone immersed in that community. That’s why we need self advocates. We need people who are in that community who understand it and its challenges and are able to work through it for other members,” Simone says.

The S.A.F.E. Committee is the driving force behind a free evening forum June 23 in Chilliwack for adults with developmental disabilities and their families.

It’s the second such educational event on Community Living British Columbia’s (CLBC) employment policy centred on people with disabilities working in the community.

It took effect in 2008 but finding and understanding information on the extensive policy can be challenging.

S.A.F.E. Committee members had many questions related to the policy on disability benefits, training and supports for individuals.

Given the committee’s revamped mandate to mentor younger self advocates and educate peers on issues they identify as important in their community, the idea grew for a seminar to provide readily accessible and accurate information.

“They felt it would be a better scenario to educate because if they had these questions (about the policy), they thought other people who have disabilities probably had similar questions,” Simone says.

“And so before we knew it, it was a whole workshop,” she says.

A total of 65 people attended the first forum in Burnaby last October.

CLBC, which attended the event to discuss the policy, asked the committee to supply all of the questions posed and created a pamphlet that was distributed.

The forum has become a partnership with CLBC, the BC Association for Community Living and the Ministry of Housing and Social Development.

The upcoming forum, serving the Fraser Valley, will feature a panel of experts on the policy and related issues. A self advocate from Chilliwack People First will also talk about his employment experience. Delegates will then be able to move amongst smaller discussion groups.

Simone says this informal approach was adopted after the inaugural forum to create a more comfortable environment for asking questions and gathering information.

A third forum will be held in northern British Columbia based on inquiries received from Prince George and area.

For more information on the forum, contact posAbilities at 604-299-4001.

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