The Arc Lancaster Lebanon embraces inclusion for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities as a core value and see it as the anecdote to isolation. We advocate for all environments to be inclusive, safe, comfortable, accepting because with inclusion comes choice. If an individual can choose to be anywhere and still feel safe, comfortable, accepted then they are truly able to choose the path most meaningful to them.
The origin of the word meant to be “shut in” referring to needing to be a part of a group. For people with disabilities the world excluded them from society because of their perceived differences. The Arc Lancaster Lebanon works to reverse that exclusion and celebrate people as they are, as we want for everyone. Society many times fails to understand their strengths and abilities. One barrier to inclusion is the fear for a person’s safety as they may have limited skills in managing risk, so the tendency is to protect and deny them the experience. The Arc Lancaster Lebanon works toward helping someone learn how to manage that risk through our advocacy and programs.
- We teach self-advocates (as people with disabilities like to be known) how to manage relationships, how to speak up for themselves, how to venture into the known world and accept their rightful place.
- We work with the school team to set realistic goals that will help towards independence and self-worth, and not limit a person based on pre-conceived concepts of inadequacy or inability to learn.
- We support the work of other agencies like “Include Me From the Start” that help classrooms be places for all to learn so that kids with disabilities learn alongside their peers in their home district, not segregating children with special needs into rooms away from other students.
- We bring a presentation to grades K-6 that speaks of the worth and ability of all children, to help build friendships early and to help future community leaders to not see limits but to see a person.
- We interact with employers helping them to see that hiring a person is not an act of charity, but a good business decision.
- We are part of a community collaborative that brings resources to teachers in special education classes that encourage discussions around future employment goals, helping these students and families have the expectation of work.
- We work with parents to help them see the conundrum that allowing risk means increasing experiences that lead to the ability to manage risk.
- Our sibling program helps younger sibs see positive sides of their brother or sister not just the support needs with the hopes that they will be able to see them in a different light.
- We try to change the scenario of “putting someone into a group home” into allowing an individual to grow and move away from the care of a parent to learn skills that will help them become more independent and autonomous while still experiencing the love and support of those parents.
- We support the work of making the community environment physically acceptable and allow for the support needs of those with disabilities such as adult changing stations and family restrooms so a caregiver can respectfully offer care to the individual.
- We help bring the discussion of the ways assistive technology supports a person’s independence
- We work to reduce the stigma associated with people with disabilities and help change attitudes and stop seeing people as “special” and “wonderful” just because they have a disability but rather because of their personal traits (and sometimes they are not “wonderful” just as anyone is not at times!)