What is Inclusion?
for Inclusive Citizenship
From: Judith Snow <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Feb. 24, 2002
Subject: Announcing the Founding of the International Association for Inclusive Citizenship
This e-mail is the announcement of the formation of the International Association for Inclusive Citizenship.
This is going to be a long e-mail. I encourage you to skip to the end if you are not inclined to read long documents. I have a few requests at the end to ask you -- simple ones! I don't want you to miss them so please go there now if you are in a hurry.
Our first fund-raiser will culminate in a Gala Celebration on March 2, 2003 at Frontier College in Toronto. Stay in touch for more information!. (31 Jackes Ave., Toronto - 2:00 - 5:00 pm)
Photos from the Gala: Click Here!
There are already over eighty-five members of the International Association for Inclusive Citizenship (IAIC) - from six countries. We are going to be a real presence in the world -- with members, chapters, projects and resources. Our fundamental purpose is very important -- Pride and Celebration.
What is the International Association for Inclusive Citizenship - IAIC? It is a space of pride and celebration of diverse ability and citizenship. The IAIC welcomes members of all abilities. Our aim is to be proud of who we are and what we do. We are an association that CELEBRATES diversity in every aspect of life and contribution. We focus - not on limitation - but on all the opportunities for relationship, fun and mutual support that our differences make possible.
IAIC is for everyone, and it is particularly responsive to those whose different abilities are denied and unsupported. People who have been labled disabled have made great strides in taking their place as full citizens in Canada and around the world. Many are included in every aspect of life in ordinary communities everywhere. Even though citizens who are called disabled face barriers to participation - poverty, isolation, segregation, lack of supports, and lack of information and education - many continue on a daily basis to work at building positive and successful lives of contribution and fulfillment.
People who are labeled disabled welcome and sustain positive relationships, embrace love and family, take part in local economies, have fun, are good neighbours, and participate in civic decision making. And - not content to succeed only for themselves - these citizens often extend support to others to help them face barriers and reach their potential too.
Many others - not yet labeled anything except normal - have also joined in and led the struggle to make a place in the world for citizens of all abilities. In IAIC we are all celebrating who we are, what we do, and the contributions we make!
The Proposed Activities of IAIC
Judith's Original e-mail on IAIC....
- Chapter development across the USA, Canada and around the world;
- Developing and distributing stories and information about the value of different abilities and diverse relationships;
- A quarterly newsletter and an interactive website that celebrates stories of included citizens, and provide information on supports, technology, etc. to enhance participation - initially in English, and soon in several languages;
- Establishing value and respect for our natural ways of being, including media watches and positive information campaigns, developing art, music and theatre, networking, etc.;
- Chapter based celebrations, designed to include people of all abilities;
- Helping to establish international standards for personal care assistance, training for supporters, accessibility, etc.
My desire to start the IAIC comes from my life journey. I have long struggled with the idea that I am "disabled". I don't experience myself as disabled. Of course, I don't mean that I don't notice that I have very limited use of my body. I am perfectly aware that I don't walk, I require hours a day of assistance to accomplish the simplest of tasks, I struggle to keep breathing adequately and I can't spontaneously hug and kiss friends, lovers and family.
These realities impact me and others around me moment by moment. These realities can't be denied!
What I find to be the REAL struggle is the ever present assumption that this state of "me" -- this way of being -- is somehow a lesser path, a misfortune, a mistake, a disadvantage, an embarrassment.
In the past thirty years more and more people have been claiming our right to be respected as we are. As an example, the Social Model is a theory of disability that is popular in the UK and Canada. It aims to empower us by locating the source of our difficulties in the social and physical environment. This is a very strong idea.
Just the same, in spite of our growing liberation, we still are led to believe about ourselves that our physical, cognitive and emotional differences are impairments. Surely, if I am impaired then one morning I will sober up, and be able to walk about and make my own breakfast. No, this isn't going to happen, nor do I spend time longing for the big change. This is the real me - the only, actual Judith Snow!
The central difficulty I find is the subtle, incessant and insistent reference to physical, cognitive and behavioural standards society calls normal. We all know that these normal standards are myths. They exist in reality neither socially, nor even personally. In other words no one is an example of "normal" at any time, except perhaps for the briefest moment. Should you fit the norm at any one moment in your life you can be sure that growing age, greater experience, even the fruits of your labours and accomplishments will soon give you a personal and social distinction that sets you apart. Normal is unattainable.
What this means for me personally is that I must continually shake myself awake. It is too easy to fall into the trance of trying to be someone else - someone that looks like me but walks and hugs. Like a deer caught in headlights, I am sometimes frozen into pretending I were, or comparing myself to, or mistaking others for. something called normal. Caught in this fantasy I end up feeling that I fall short in some way. I become in my own eyes, not to mention the eyes of others, not good enough or capable of coping. Problems and challenges become insurmountable. Resignation and negativity rule the day.
As an example, when I was very young I rolled from place to place in my house. When I was six I was transformed into a standing person through a series of painful manipulations that involved breaking my bones, putting my legs into casts and bracing me in steel and leather from toes to waist. By the time I was eight not only had I lost what little muscle I had from the waist down, but my arms were weakening and I could no longer roll myself around. This example is extreme and personal, but I see similar blatant and subtle examples everyday in my own life and in the lives of others.
What makes more sense - and is actually possible - is for me to be myself and to fulfill the possibilities that I actually have. My aim in life is to discover and develop the relationships, abilities, responsibilities and contributions that are truly available to me now. and now. and now on into an uncertain and ever evolving future.
Living in this way requires imagination, courage, communication, resourcefulness and a flair for celebration.
Living in two spaces - disabled and normal - has been a stress for me. When I am at work providing keynotes, traveling internationally, maintaining my home in Toronto, and making car and mortgage payments I find myself physically isolated from and socially estranged from others who are called disabled. When I join in at a People First dance or sit quietly with someone who doesn't speak I feel personally at home yet strangely burdened by my life's patterns of work and association.
A truly inclusive world would unite my two worlds. That world would recognize and maintain a space that celebrates diversity, and it would be a space that is honoured, appreciated, dynamic and abundant.
In forming the International Association for Inclusive Citizenship I am creating a model of this space. It is to be a space of membership, pride and celebration.
There are many other people in this world who, like me, are labeled disabled and are committed to living fully in mainstream society. The IAIC is for us.
The IAIC is for those of us who aim to live, work, play and pray in the real world. Our so-called disabilities don't define us. We are intentionally striving to nurture friendship and love, to take charge of our lives, and to make contributions to the economic, social and political world around us. We assert the importance of building a world where everybody's abilities are part of the mosaic of everyday life.
In the IAIC space we are whole. We are citizens that are BOTH people with unusual and challenging abilities and limitations, and people who are intentionally living out our responsibilities and opportunities as full members of society.
There are many other people who are not yet labeled disabled. Some of these so called normal people are also aiming to live, work, play and pray in the real world. They also are intentionally striving to nurture friendship and love, to take charge of their lives, and to make contributions to the economic, social and political world around them. They also assert the importance of building a world where everybody's abilities are part of the mosaic of everyday life.
The IAIC is also for them -- for us! Our commitments to building inclusion and being inclusive bind us together and give us much to celebrate.
I envision many ways that we can develop the IAIC. Please notice that I say "We". From this point on I am doing nothing without the collaboration of other members. I intend to be a strong influence but very much a colleague as we develop our own vehicle to celebrate ourselves.
I see us beginning by using e-mail and free internet chat rooms. As our resources increase we will reach out to others in our local areas by phone, TV, radio and post.
We will develop small, local chapters, networked together internationally. At the local level we will operate like clubs, concentrating on the social, fun and celebration interests of members. On a broader level we will discuss and impact social policy - regionally and internationally. We will bridge the work of disability rights groups with the work of other human rights and democratic renewal groups - reflecting our place as included citizens.
We will have fun, feel great about ourselves and impact all those things in our communities that matter to us: housing, transportation, personal assistance, income, jobs, access, education, information, research, communication, love, friendship, respect, safety, wellness, health care, sex, fun, leisure, family, children, spirituality, worship, social diversity, bio-diversity, the environment, democracy, and peace!
In order to get rolling we will require some fundamentals. I'm thinking we need to:
I am doing this work voluntarily now, but I aim to make this a paid position as our fundraising takes effect. I will be nominating myself as the first Executive Director of IAIC.
- design a basic vision statement and charter that defines membership;
- make some decisions about membership - e.g. one class of membership, or many; does anyone get excluded?;
- develop a local, national and international structure;
- get out an e-newsletter and work out ways to translate it into four or five languages;
- work out ways to be fully accessible and,
- do some fundraising.
I am attaching to this e-mail a sample article as might appear in our forthcoming newsletter.
So here are my requests. Please:
This being early in the process, you may get this e-mail sent to you more than once, from me or forwarded from other people. I apologize for this overlap. I promise we will work out ways to streamline our communication. A website perhaps?!?
- reply when you get this e-mail, to say if you are in or out.
- send this e-mail out widely.
- tell me if you are willing to be on a founding committee - local, national and/or international.
- say what you think about membership criteria for IAIC.
- suggest activities for the IAIC.
- suggest how to make our communication and activities fully accessible.
- give me fundraising suggestions and even volunteer to do some.
- ask any questions you have.
- *** I specifically require immediately some hints about setting up a chat room and a data base.***
Welcome to the pride and celebration of being an included citizen. Welcome to a world that honours everyone's abilities. Welcome to the International Association for Inclusive Citizenship.
What It Is and What It Is Not
by Judith A. Snow