PosAbilities, self-advocates partner with school to remove barriers, foster inclusion
Natalie Hamilton

PosAbilities and the Self Advocates for Equality (SAFE) committee are striving to foster an inclusive society and are beginning their quest in a Burnaby elementary school classroom.

By reaching one child at a time, SAFE hopes it can start shaping a future culture where all citizens belong.

Called the Changing Generations project, the SAFE committee will be working with a class of Grade 4 students in a local community school. Once a month from March through to June, self-advocate Dave Sherrit will engage students in storytelling and play to celebrate the successes and illuminate the barriers people who have a developmental disability face today.

“We’re working to change the minds of young people,” says Simone Brandl, SAFE committee liaison.

“We’re trying to change one person at a time to make a difference for people with developmental disabilities.”

The intent is to reach children before biases develop so they become inclusive of their peers and share those experiences with friends, family and later their own children – ultimately changing generations, Simone says.

In addition to Dave’s presentations, students are charged with creating a video highlighting topics including the importance of self-advocacy, breaking down barriers for people who have a developmental disability and inclusion. Simone hopes the video will have a community impact and also foster inclusion within the students’ own classroom. “We’re hoping it will strengthen the bonds between the kids and teach children self-advocacy is important.”

The SAFE committee applied and received a grant from The B.C. Self Advocacy Foundation (BCSAF) for the Changing Generations project.

Through its No More Barriers campaign, the BCSAF is striving to raise awareness about human rights and to promote discussions on how to make these rights real for everyone. BCSAF made money available to organizations in support of B.C.-based community projects that break down barriers for people who have a developmental disability.

While Changing Generations is a pilot project, Simone hopes the initiative will be expanded. “We’d love to see this in other schools. I can see it far-reaching.”

The bigger-picture vision is to have a number of self-advocates willing and able to talk to people, showcase what affects them and what they are capable of, and to “really effect change in a way you don’t normally see.”

Pending permission, Simone sees the video posted on the BCSAF website and perhaps on the school district’s website as well.

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