Connect Kalamazoo held the 6th Annual Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of The Arcadia Institute and Its Partners on March 21, 2015. This year we included a video booth for people to share on site what they were experiencing as a result of the Forum. While reviewing the interviews, one person’s comments touched me and have been resonating in my head ever since. His comments reminded me why the work of The Arcadia Institute and Connect Kalamazoo are so valuable.
When asked if he had met any new people and made new connections, he simply said, “I’m Tory and now they know my name.”
Being known and connected in one’s community is precious and those of us who can navigate the community without needing extra support or accommodations may take this for granted. So many people with disabilities in our community continue to be invisible and set apart where the rest of us don’t know their names. When we do not see them or learn their names, we are missing out on their unique gifts and talents that make our community better.
Through Community Brokering, we introduce people to the community. People learn their names and get to know them. People with disabilities become seen as people with gifts and abilities that the community needs. No longer are they invisible or seen as part of a group of people that need to be set apart in special programs. The community as a whole benefits when people with disabilities are welcomed and supported.
So when you see people with disabilities in the community remember they each have a name and perhaps you would ask them, “What’s your name?”