Counting Down and Celebrating the 2017 “International Day of Persons with Disabilities” with the Power of Words

Written by: Emily Kornelsen

Words wield incredible power. How we use our words matters, it makes all the difference. Words can encourage people’s spirits, spread joy, and affect positive change, and they can be hurtful and violent. Words pattern how we think about and interact with others and the world around us.

At Sadie’s Place for Innovative Inclusion we want to share the words that guide us. We use our words to foster relationships, to share important messages with buttons we create through INclusion by PRESS, to support each other through joys and challenges, to engage in meaningful and sometimes difficult conversations, to celebrate difference; and so much more! We are mindful of the power of words and strive to use our words in positive and impactful ways. Words, and the structures they create, are at the heart of so much of what we do at Sadie’s Place. Over the next 200 days we will be featuring one word a month leading up to the 2017 International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd.

We selected words that encompass our key values and reflect what Sadie’s Place means to us and how we live INclusion. There are lots ways to ‘use your words’, many of which don’t involve speaking at all. So along with each of our guiding words, we will share a collaborative art piece and launch a button for sale in our community that embodies what that word means to us.

Watch this blog space for our words, artwork, buttons, and passions over the coming months! We are excited to share these messages that are so central to who we are and what we do with all of you! Each month our featured buttons will be on sale at places where our INclusion by PRESS buttons are sold (Queen Street Commons Cafe, Waterloo Region Museum gift shop, and 4 new locations yet to be revealed)!

The Words that Guide Us

About this image: This image was an art collaboration created by Allison Arai and Amy McClelland for the launch of our campaign leading up to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2017.

Let’s celebrate love with love: Re-thinking Valentine’s Day

Written by: Amy McClelland, Kayla Ross, and Susan Arai, Sadie’s Place for Innovative Inclusion.

As February 14th approaches, we are taking time to reflect on how we can make Valentine’s Day more inclusive to all. When we look at common social expectations placed on Valentine’s celebrations, such as planning a special date with your partner and giving romantic gifts, we see that these norms can put limitations on who celebrates Valentine’s Day, how they celebrate it, and excludes many different loving relationships in our communities. At Sadie’s Place for Innovative Inclusion we are remembering our values of relationships and inclusion as we celebrate Valentine’s Day with intention.  Our goal this year is to celebrate all love and relationships and remove the restriction of a Valentine’s Day that is solely about romantic love. On a day meant to celebrate love we reflect on the idea that love has many meanings. To us, inclusion is a synonym for love; keeping hearts open to love all people and finding value in diversity is a form of love that we actively foster in every day. Building relationships is also a form of love; taking time to connect with other people in friendship, romantic partnership, in families, and in daily  interactions with co-workers and people in community. We are expanding Valentine’s Day to celebrate all love and all relationships.  Giving a card to a sibling, best friend,  co-worker, or the kind barista at your favourite coffee shop celebrates all of the different types of love and relationships that fill our lives. This gesture is also a reminder that any relationship bringing fulfillment and support has value and deserves to be celebrated. Remember, love has no restriction. Love does not discriminate against gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age or ability. Love is a universal act that should never be limited or judged. Let’s celebrate love with love.

To help us get in the spirit, we are re-watching “Love has no Labels” you can check it out on YouTube at:

Be Inclusive this Halloween! Some Helpful Costume and Decoration Tips from Sadie’s Place for Innovative Inclusion

By: Sarah Forbes, Sue Arai, and Carrie Briscoe

Celebration of community

Here at Sadie’s Place, as we prepare to participate in the laughter, sweets, and celebration of costumes that are central parts of Halloween we try to keep the goals of our organization in mind. At Sadie’s Place we work to:

  • strengthen relationships and promote interdependence as a foundation for inclusion;
  • create authentic engagement in community;
  • shift disabling languages and practices; and
  • engage in ongoing reflection on our collaborative practices.

As we engage our principle of honouring human rights through compassion and celebration, we try to be mindful that common costumes can be hurtful to others.

In addition to handing out candy, tonight we are giving out activity pages for children that include various puzzles and inclusive messages. Here is a copy for those of you with a creative side! inclusive-halloween-puzzles

Mindfulness of ableism

We are mindful that many Halloween costumes and decorations rely on stigmatized images of mental illness and disability and perpetuate hurtful and dangerous myths. Costumes that rely on stereotypical portrayals of disability, connect disability with violence, or involve ‘props’ such as straightjackets, medication, or other disability-adjacent items further stigma around disability. In addition, Halloween attractions and decorations that portray mental and physical health treatments as terrifying ‘asylums’ add to the difficulty of discussing disability and mental health publicly.

This video by Cuquis Robledo captures the conversation well:

In addition, we found this blog post by Lydia X. Z. Brown helpful as we explored this issue in more depth:

When handing out sweets to community members, Adults in Motion published a post about how to be accepting of difference:

Mindfulness of racial stereotypes and cultural appropriation

We are mindful that common costumes can be hurtful to others, and so we try to avoid costumes that celebrate racial stereotyping and cultural appropriation. We found information pages from Wilfrid Laurier University and York University to be helpful guides:

Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group:

Centre for Human Rights at York University

Mindfulness of gender stereotypes, unequal power relations, and sexism

We are mindful that Halloween costumes can often replicate gender stereotypes and unequal power relations, and diminish women to sexualized roles (e.g., maid costumes, sex trade workers). We found an article that helped us to think through these concerns:

The Huffington Post British Columbia published an article recently discussing the difference between costumes marketed to young children based on gender:


Reflecting on Our Title “Community Inclusion and Leisure Collaborator”

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.

Allison Lina Kayla

Lina, Allison, and Kayla cooking together

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.


Lina and Allison dropping off their Faerie house at the McDougall Cottage

Ukulele Club

Allison and Kayla playing music with the ukulele club

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.

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).

Let’s Talk Language

Words have impact. 

There is currently a lot of debate about what labels to use and which language structures are most enabling; however, when people get lost in debates about labels we forget the basics of how to dialogue. The golden rule applies well: speak about others as you would like others to speak about you. Avoid terms that diminish people, or label them as bring wrong, less than, or incapable. When we celebrate people’s gifts and strengths, disabling practices can be transformed.