By Lina Nguyen and Kayla Haas
For the most part, job titles are meant to represent the position a person holds in a company and provides a description of what they do. When you read our job title, our job description might not be immediately clear to everyone. Our title, Community Inclusion and Leisure Collaborator, expresses what we do and how; even if it isn’t as commonly known as job titles such as Teacher, Police Officer, or Researcher. Our title might appear to be lengthy, but each word has been chosen carefully to reflect the values of Sadie’s Place for Innovative Inclusion. We value communities that celebrate differences and promote inclusion for all members. We value collaborative engagement in meaningful leisure experiences and we value building relationships.
Unlike other job titles, ours is an act of resistance in addition to offering an explanation of our responsibilities. Our title was chosen over “support worker” or “therapist” as a deliberate means to shift unequal power distribution that can be present in caring relationships. Typically, traditional titles reflect a relationship between a care provider (support worker/therapist) and a care recipient (patient/client). Power and the power to care is often thought of as unequally distributed. For example, a care provider might create a therapy plan for a care recipient, without seeking input from the recipient. Similarly, care is seen as flowing in one direction – from provider to recipient without recognizing the influence of both people on the other.
Instead, as collaborators we reflect the importance of shared power and care between two people. We make decisions together about how we engage with/in our community. We use our shared talents and interests to guide our community engagement. For example, Lina and Allison’s shared love of art lead them to collaboratively create a faerie house for McDougall Cottage in Cambridge. Kayla and Allison joined a community ukulele club to foster their mutual love of music. This aspect of our title reflects the relational approach we take in our practice. We believe in mutuality, shared experiences, and relationships that benefit each and every person involved. The relational approach we take in our work isn’t limited to the relationships between members of Sadie’s Place. It also extends to the relationships we create with other community members.
When we have the opportunity to connect with community members over a conversation about our role, it usually makes them stop and think. A lot of people have said that they have never really reflected on how they think about (dis)ability and how that affects their lives. Not everyone has had the opportunity to get to know someone who has an impairment, be it developmental, physical, or cognitive. Our conversation acts as a reminder that having an impairment isn’t uncommon; it’s universal – something that we all experience. But if impairments are universal, why is it that some people are excluded while others aren’t?
Being a Community Inclusion and Leisure Collaborator gives us an opportunity to bridge difference and encourage others to do more to make sure everyone in the community feels welcomed and accepted. We speak about the way our practices bring people closer together through shared experiences and meaningful engagement and how we resist practices that are disabling. We challenge people’s ways of thinking by introducing them to different perspectives and shining a light on issues many people overlook or take for granted. Sadie’s Place for Innovative Inclusion embraces inclusivity, diversity, and social justice, and we act as bridges for other community members to make connections with people from all walks of life and build relationships that allow for creativity, growth, and interdependence.