What’s Difference Got to Do With It?

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. One of the ways in which we as Community Brokers of The Arcadia Institute walk out our mission of “making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community” is to factor in the need for each of us to be careful to filter our decisions and procedures through a lens that remains open to different.

Community Brokers have the opportunity to work with, not only different types of participants who receive our service but also different types of community partners, community circle members and different types of families. In order for us to be effective in assisting persons with disabilities to reach their desired goals of inclusion within our community, we must establish relationships that value those differences.

This helps to grow the good ground needed for all of us moving forward safely through the action steps towards different. This work in valuing differences piggybacks on the topic of last week that stressed the importance of taking our time.

Valuing differences may not come overnight. It requires intention to include. It requires a willingness to check yourself whenever “familiar” and “comfortable” try to rise up in the face of opportunities for change. It requires a willingness to educate yourself about areas of ignorance. It requires a willingness to “self-locate” regarding certain systemic privileges and assumptions that are in your head and also in the room.

Walls go up or come down depending upon how differences are handled. As an African-American woman with a disability you can believe that I have experienced both inclusion and exclusion based upon my myriad of differences. Community Brokers take responsibility for how safe the ground is as we invite persons with disabilities, their community circles and our community partners in to assisting them with helping their lives become more different through inclusion in their own communities. Have you checked your lens lately?