When Leaders are Intentional about Inclusion

In 2011, The Connect Kalamazoo Network developed a Community Commitment to Inclusions Checklist. Organizations can use the checklist to self-assess their commitment to including people with disabilities. There are four sections of the checklist: 1. Organization Leadership and Administration 2. Support for Individuals with Disabilities 3. Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities to Build Relationships and Contribute 4. Accessibility

This week the blog is an example of how the Organization Leadership of the Boys and Girls Club has embraced inclusion.

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo was a founding Partner of the Connect Kalamazoo Network and has supported the Building a Community of Belonging Forum each year since 2010. At the 2nd Annual Forum, our guest facilitators John and Connie Lyle-O’Brien suggested that Jill Angell, Program Director, review the book “Make a Difference” (O’Brien and Mount). Jill took the suggestion seriously. Then she had her staff complete a worksheet from the book that had each person describe their gifts. They also shared situations in which each needs support. Jill said that this helped them all understand that everyone can contribute and everyone needs help. It changed the perspective of the staff when working with Club members who have challenges – diagnosed or not.

Jill said that this activity also helped them identify areas where staff needed more training. Some example areas were: • How to support Club members with sensory issues • How to communicate with Club members who have hearing loss • How to consistently support positive behaviors so Club members know what is expected of them

In addition, the staff created other universal changes that while specific to certain disabilities also help all of the Club members. One example is that they have an program schedule posted on a large white board. They added pictures and icons to the schedule for Club members who do not read well. Actually, this helped everyone have a better understanding of what choices of activities are available. They added red and green cards to the doorways to signal when activities are beginning and ending. This helps transitions smoother for all of the Club members.

Boys and Girls Club Program Board Picture: The Program Board at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo

The following quote from Bob Ezelle, Executive Director, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo really sums up their commitment to inclusion: “We’ve had kids with disabilities involved in the program before, but we were not as effective as we are now.”