This week's blog was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute. We use the term ‘being in community’ now, but when I started working as an advocate on behalf of people with disabilities in the mid-seventies, the prominent term was ‘community placement’.
Community Placement meant putting people who lived in state institutions back into the community. They were ‘placed’, that is, the decisions about where they would live, with whom, in what kind of home were all made by professionals in the institution and professionals working for local community mental health programs. When we talk about ‘being in community’ today, we mean being an integral part of relationships with people you choose to be with and who choose to be with you, taking part in activities that are meaningful to you, living where you choose to live and with whom you choose.
And yet, we know that ‘being in community’ is not the driving principle for so much of what happens to people with disabilities. Many decisions are still made by others, and control over how one spends one’s time often still lies with professionals. The predominant model is still a clinical model, rather that a pattern of support that leads to community participation.
In our efforts through the Community Participation Initiative we believe that we are moving toward a point where ‘being in community’ becomes the watchword. We think that this shift entails not just working with the individual with a disabilities but also working with the community to help it resolve some of its problems.
‘Being in community’ means being a full community participant. It also means taking responsibility for one’s community.