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:

Reads of Interest: Books Focusing on Difference, Inclusion, and Disability

Hi everyone!

In preparation for our Chapters FUNdraiser event tonight, we have put together a list of interesting books focusing on difference, inclusion, and disability. We have included selections from children’s books, young adult literature, adult fiction and non-fiction, and books for parents and teachers. Join us at our Kitchener Chapters FUNdraiser and start your holiday gift shopping early or pick up a book you’ve never read before to support inclusion! With every purchase on November 17th from 6:30-9:00 pm of regularly priced in-store items at Chapters Kitchener, up to 20% of the purchase will be donated directly back to Sadie’s Place!  Here is a link to our Facebook event:

Children’s Books

  • “It’s ok to be Different” by Todd Parr
    • Written for children just learning how to read, this book celebrates diversity and inclusion by telling children that it’s okay to be different, in whichever way you are.
  • “We’re Different We’re the Same” by Bobbi Kates
    • A Sesame Street book about how even though we all look different, we are similar on the inside.
  • “A Rainbow of Friends” by PK Hallinan
    • A book celebrating the differences between people because that’s what makes them special!
  • “We’ll Paint the Octopus Red” by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
    • A book about a six-year-old girl who looks forward to the birth of her younger brother, who has Down Syndrome, and asks what he can’t do because of this. Her father explains, with her help, that if given support and love, there isn’t anything he can’t do.
  • “My Brother Charlie” by Holly Robinson Peete
    • Written by a 12-year old girl and her mother about her experiences with a younger brother with autism. This book describes that Charlie is no different than other children and teaches young children about autism.
  • “Leo the Late Bloomer” by Robert Kraus
    • This book is about a tiger who takes longer than his friends at learning to read, write, and draw. His loving mother knows he’ll do things when he’s ready and that we all learn at difference paces.
  • “Freddie and the Fairy” by Julia Donaldson
    • A book about a fairy with a hearing impairment. The fairy mishears Freddie’s wishes and grants him the wrong wishes. Freddie learns how to communicate better with the fairy by speaking while looking at her, speaking slower, and more clearly, and the fairy is then able to grant the wishes he actually wants.
  • “The Black Book of Colours” by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria
    • This book describes colours and other visual experiences through black raised line drawings and tactile experiences, includes braille translations for all text.
  • “Max the Champion” by Sean Stockdale and Alexandra Strick
    • A book about a group of children with various disabilities who play sports together. In the book, the children’s disabilities are never commented on and instead the love of sports is the central topic.

Young Adult Fiction Books

  • “Rules” by Cynthia Lord
    • A book about a young girl whose younger brother has autism and has developed a set of ‘rules’ for engaging with him and with the world. However, unlikely friendships with new neighbours teach her that sometimes these rules need to be broken.
  • “So B. It” by Sarah Weeks
    • This book is about a young girl whose mother has an intellectual disability and the young girl goes out on her own to discover where she comes from. This book discusses belonging, inclusion, and how love can be communicated even without words.
  • “Wonder” by R.J Palacio
    • A book about a boy who has Treacher-Collins syndrome and moves from being homeschooled to entering the public school system and is worried about how he will be treated by other students. While some bullying and exclusion happens in the story, he also forms friendships with other students and the school becomes a more inclusive place.
  • “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
    • This book is about Junior, a cartoonist who grew up on a reserve but moves to an all-white school where the only other person who looks like him is the school mascot. Together, Junior and his new classmates learn about inclusion and belonging, and work against stigma to create a community where everyone can thrive.
  • “Girls Like Us” by Gail Giles
    • A book about two 18-year-old students who just graduated from the ‘special education’ program at their high school and are thrown together in their first jobs. As they couldn’t be more different, they start off with a lot of friction – but unlikely friendships begin to form as they grow accustomed to the world outside of high school.
  • “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” by Mark Haddon
    • In this mystery novel, the protagonist is a 15-year old boy represented as having an Autism Spectrum disorder, although it is not specifically stated in the book. His mathematical abilities and sense of detail allow him to solve the mystery presented in this book.
  • “Mockingbird” by Kathryn Erskine
    • A book about an 11-year old girl with Asperger Syndrome who learns how to live without her much-loved older brother after his sudden death.

Adult Fiction Books

  • “Lottery” by Patricia Wood
    • This book describes what happens when Perry, a man with an intellectual disability living in Seattle, wins the lottery. All sorts of people (family, neighbours , and strangers) come out of nowhere to try and manipulate him into giving them some of the money and Perry has to distinguish them from his real friends.
  • “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova
    • A book about a professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease who has to adjust to a new way of living. Through interactions with her family and friends, she learns that although life is different now, it is still very much a life worth living.
  • “Beauty is a Verb” by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, and Michael Northen
    • A book of poetry written by authors with disabilities that addresses many diverse topics.

Adult Non-Fiction Books

  • “The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida
    • A memoir written by a teenage boy who has autism. Using an alphabet grid, Naoki answers in his own words many questions about autism, explaining his own experiences.
  • “Look Me in The Eye: My Life with Asperger’s” by John Elder Robinson
    • Written by a man diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in his 40s, this memoir discusses growing up different, finding one’s way in the world, and finally discovering who you are.

Books for Parents and/or Teachers

  • “Don’t We Already Do Inclusion?” by Paula Kluth
    • With a focus on inclusion in the classroom and the world, this book describes that even though one might ‘think’ they already are inclusive, there’s always ways to be a little bit more inclusive.

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.

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.