Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Conversation Café

Last November my friend Kate emailed me. She works at Brock University in Community Learning which is a program that offers learning opportunities for everyone in the community to enjoy. One of the things that they do is organize Conversation Cafés. Conversation Cafés are created to encourage discussion and learning.  They are based on the principle that no one person has all the answers and that the knowledge of the group is much more rich than the knowledge of a single person.  Each Café is held at a local coffee shop and each Café has a different topic to be discussed. The conversation is run by a moderator and a guest with knowledge about the topic is invited to attend. The guest presents an overview of the topic and then participates in the conversation.

Next Tuesday, March 6th, there is a Conversation Café on the following topic:

How can we support the full inclusion of all people, including those with a developmental disability, in our community?

We all want safety, security, happiness and health. We all want the right to choose how we live out our lives. Being recognized as an individual and having the opportunity to make a valuable contribution is important to every person. Often however, people with a developmental disability can feel like they are on the outside of the community, looking in. In this public discussion, we explore how to create a community that welcomes all members.

Since I work with people who have a developmental disability, Kate asked me to review her summary to make sure it made sense. I made a few edits and sent it back with my approval.

She then asked me if I'd be willing to be the guest at the event.

I'm not a big fan of doing presentations and I'm certainly not a big fan of talking in front of a room full of strangers.  But I am a big fan of a good conversation and I am an even bigger fan of doing things that scare me so I agreed.

I just found out that my night is March 6th so I have a week to get my thoughts in order and be ready to talk for ten minutes about what community inclusion really means.  And what a disability label really means.  And what discrimination means.

In order to prepare myself I have been having little imaginary conversations in my head.  I imagine a conversation where people are asking me questions or challenging things I have said. In my head, I say my part first and then I try to think about what someone else might say to me so I can figure out how I might respond. 

Here's how one of these imaginary conversations went.  

Me: "people with developmental disabilities live in the community but they are not always part of the community. For example, if you or I wanted to join a bowling league, we would go to our local bowling alley and sign up.  If someone with a developmental disability wants to join a bowling league, they are told to join the Special Olympics bowling league. "

Other person: "Well, what's wrong with that? Joining Special Olympcis means that they get to be with other people just like them."

Me: "Just because people share the same label of 'disability' doesn't mean that they are all the same and that they are going to be friends with other people with that label.  I have Type 1 diabetes but, if I wanted to join a bowling league, that doesn't mean I'm going to go find a Type 1 diabetic bowling league.  People shouldn't be clumped together because they have the same label.  They should be able to be with people who share similar interests. "

No offense to all the other T1s out there but I just don't think I want to join a bowling league where I have to be with you just because our pancreases don't work.  We are more than our diabetes right?  I'll hang out with people with diabetes when I want to be part of that community. But I won't seek them out when I want to be part of the bowling community.  

Anyway, I've got my rough draft written for my presentation which leaves me with a few days to ruminate on it.  I've already made Doug pretend to be my audience once and I suspect he's going to be hearing it a few more times before the big night.  And if anyone is free next Tuesday night and wants to be part of the conversation - come on out! 

1 comment:

  1. At the risk of being inappropriate as you continue to recover from your recent injury, with respect to the evening of March 6th, I would like to say - "Break a Leg"

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