I spend a lot of time in this column asking the simple question, “What is community?” This week, I have a real example of community-building to share: the Ability Summit.
Part of this story of community is a story about people coming together to create a vision. Four years ago, a group of nonprofit leaders from Southwest Colorado came together to compare notes and share ideas around disability services in our region. They each came from a different organization (San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the Arc of Southwest Colorado, Southwest Center for Independence and Community Connections). Yet, they shared a vision of a community that promotes inclusion of people with disabilities.
Out of these discussions came the idea that the annual end-of-year professional development conference for educators could be expanded by a day to explore inclusion and disabilities. The day would be open to educators but focused on students and adults with disabilities and their families. Thus, “Family Day” was born.
After three years of Family Day and a transition to the more appropriate title of “Ability Summit,” the conference has come of age. We have added partners, such as Adaptive Sports Association, and refined our approach to the conference, which is scheduled for March 12, 2020, at Durango Community Recreation Center.
Our hope is for the Ability Summit to grow into action – as many of the most effective community initiatives do – from groups of residents getting together to grapple with issues our communities face and co-creating solutions. The summit is designed to be a day of learning and discussion by and for people with disabilities and their families.
But issues of inclusion and barriers to full community participation matter to all of us. When people with disabilities are fully included in their communities, their health, economic stability, safety and happiness improve. In turn, the community benefits from the gifts, talents and contributions of a historically marginalized segment of our society.
As we build the Ability Summit, we hope that this can become a place where people with and without disabilities can come together to work toward a more inclusive community. It will be a place to share our stories – stories of barriers and challenges, successes and inclusion from the viewpoint of people with disabilities and others who are paving the way for a more inclusive community.
Between now and March, here are some additional ways you can be involved in inclusion:
Recommend a topic or presenter for the Ability Summit by emailing email@example.com.Talk to political candidates, elected officials, business and community leaders about their efforts to promote inclusive communities.Hire a person with a disability or learn about how to create a more inclusive work environment for people with disabilities.Invite a person with a disability to participate with you in a group, class or activity. Most of us are more comfortable trying something new with a friend. Tara Kiene is president/CEO of Community Connections Inc.