The past two days, a group from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities visited Kalamazoo on a learning tour of the Community Participation Initiative and our building a community of belonging Network. A young man who is a sophomore in high school was part of the group. He asked a simple but powerful question of us. He wanted to know when he is part of a circle of support for classmates with disabilities what can he do. He said that he isn’t an expert in the area of disability and he isn’t always sure what he can add as a member of the circle for a classmate planning for his future in the community. What struck us was that just by asking the simple question, “What can I do?” he is taking part of the responsibility for not only supporting a classmate, but is also influencing the broader community. When we ask the question, “What can we do to support people with disabilities in our communities?” we take the first step for a person to be fully part of the community. We may ultimately support a person to live in a place he choses, find activities where she can fully participate, perhaps even find a job.
Let’s take this young man’s example and instead of asking, “What special services or programs for people with disabilities are available?” ask, “What can I do to support a person to have a life fully in the community?”