Lost suitcases, forgotten lives spur inclusion
"There ARE ways. There are other ways, creative ways, ways to sustain community supports at their current levels," said Live Inclusive founder Michael Goodwill.
"We need to come together, to tell our stories. We need to start a larger conversation."
Goodwill has attempted to do just that, start the conversation. Goodwill scrounged support to bring the Willard Suitcases exhibit to the University of Washington in January 2011, and launched an initiative, Live Inclusive to encourage community dialogue around innovation and inclusion.
Goodwill remarked that the goal of inclusive communities has been lost, somewhat, in political clamor amidst institutional consolidation, and in proposed budget and program cuts. 'Live inclusive' is an opportunity to build community innovation from a grassroots' perspective, without being stymied by politics, the recession, or public policy on disability.
"We need more community involvement. There are some amazing stories out there. I met a woman last week who teaches yoga to people with developmental disabilities as physical and occupational therapy. These are great alternatives to institutional living."
Supported employment field specialists Goodwill and Melinda Bocci sat in Third Place Books, on a snowy afternoon before Thanksgiving, to discuss a collective goal to build viable communities, to focus on resources and strategies that work.
"Employment is a great example of something that works for people in the community. 95% of us are employed by people we know, and so for those with disabilities, employment is an enormous leadership opportunity for everyone involved," said Goodwill. "It's the best respite."
Goodwill and others launched the site Live Inclusive to collect and exhibit real stories of what works in terms of community-based inclusion, juxtaposed with the Willard Suitcase exhibit.
"There is enormous diversity in our opportunities," said Goodwill. We have alternatives to institutional living and can promote what works. We need to build a better relationship with our communities."
To support Live Inclusive, the Willard Suitcase Exhibit, or to share your story of living inclusively in the community, visit www.liveinclusive.org.