October is Community Living Month, and during this time the B.C. Government and Community Living BC (CLBC) are pleased to honour inclusive communities and highlight the contributions of individuals with developmental disabilities. We urge everyone to support local celebrations, and to recognize we all have a role to play in creating welcoming communities.
Initiated by individuals and families in Victoria, the month has been embraced throughout the province and country, and is now in its 17th year. Today almost all of us know someone with a developmental disability, and this inclusiveness is largely due to the incredible efforts of people with developmental disabilities, their families, service agencies, schools, and community groups who have worked to make our communities more welcoming.
This year is also the 10th anniversary of the creation of Community Living BC, a Crown corporation that today serves nearly 18,000 individuals with developmental disabilities.
Perhaps nothing shows our progress – and the promise of the future – better than the up and coming generation. Each year about 800 young people with developmental disabilities become adults in B.C. Thanks to those who have gone before, those young adults and their families are now seeing their dreams of jobs, friendships, rich life experiences and the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to their communities become realities.
So this month, it is more important than ever to understand that making your community more welcoming is a team effort. Local businesses, community groups and individuals like you have essential roles.
The BC government has highlighted its commitment in its 10-year plan, Accessibility 2024. It includes the ambitious goal to see B.C. become the most progressive place in Canada for people with disabilities. The plan aims to do this through a range of initiatives that include making government more inclusive, services accessible, and income supports more progressive. We are continually seeking to strengthen community inclusion, residential and employment services, among many others. Helping people to live good lives in welcoming communities is also CLBC’s mission.
Local businesses have a significant part to play. Only about 3,600 of the 18,000 people CLBC serves report an income. Many businesses are already participating in initiatives like the President’s Group, Rotary at Work in BC, MentorAbility, Ready Willing and Able, and BC Partners for Workforce Innovation, all provincial efforts to link people with disabilities with new jobs. We would urge business owners and their employees to explore these different initiatives and discover the many ways that people with developmental disabilities can contribute. Hiring a person with a disability is good for business!
As individuals with developmental disabilities bring their skills, energy and commitment to their jobs, it is exciting to see a shift in attitudes from executive suites right down to the aisles of our local grocery stores.
But while government and business efforts are vital, the most important person in a welcoming community is you. When we survey people with developmental disabilities, they tell us that they most want improvements in relationships and social inclusion. Too many feel alone.
We all benefit when we find new ways to come together, to learn from each other, and to enjoy life experiences together. Whether you are a colleague, a book or hiking club member, a barista, a fitness instructor, a church member or an employer, you can enrich your life and the lives of people with disabilities by letting them know they belong, and ultimately by helping them in realizing their dreams.
This month, please join us in recognizing how much stronger we are when we ensure people of all abilities are a big part of every community in the province.