Re-Creating Place

Written by: Susan Arai

The Oxford English Dictionary states place is “a position or station occupied by custom, entitlement, or right; an allotted position; a space or position allocated to or reserved for a person.”1. We endeavour to remake places for people with developmental disabilities in community. We hope to shift understandings of place from being a noun (having a place) to place as a verb (making or creating place). For all of us, our place in community is constantly changing and being re-made as we grow and change, or as we no longer wish to fit into the small boxes created for us.

Through centuries of oppression, people with disabilities have been rendered invisible in communities (having no place) or relegated to the margins of society (moved into devalued places). For example, segregated schools and institutions were often placed in industrial areas or on the outskirts of communities. When homes or programs were created in the boundaries of community they often became “mini-institutions” in which people with developmental disabilities and paid staff became segregated behind the walls of the building with little interaction with other members of the community. Similarly, the concept of life skills arose in the 1970s with the idea that we had to teach people with developmental disabilities “life skills” so that they could function independently in “normal” community. It has a tone of “fixing” people. The challenge was (1) the way people with disabilities are viewed, and (2) the vision stopped there with the idea of fixing people so they could be placed in community, rather than being part of community. This vision was limiting and static. The focus of Sadie’s place is on building relationships and creating place or community, not fixing people with developmental disabilities. As an individual is able to express natural abilities, capacities and talents, and engage in lifelong learning this creates opportunities for others to reflect on how they have created disabling conditions that put people in places (place as a noun). We endeavour to engage and create a new paradigm.

When we plan and make decisions at Sadie’s Place for Innovative Inclusion, we do so with this intention of re-creating place (place as a verb) in mind. For example, rather than thinking about going for a walk in a community for physical activity (i.e., fixing people), we think about it in the larger picture of recreating place and the role that walking plays in a natural web of relationships in community and the spirit of individuals. 

[1] Citation: “place, n.1”. OED Online. March 2015. Oxford University Press. (accessed June 01, 2015).

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