At our MFA meeting last Sunday, Geana Connelly mentioned that she and Mike Diaz attended the ACCSES conference in Savannah, Georgia. ACCSES is a network of over 1,200 organizations, including Misericordia, which seeks to expand choice for individuals with disabilities.
Historically, ACCSES has focused on employment issues, but more recently it has expanded into advocating for choice in housing as well. I am reprinting below a statement issued by ACCSES after last week’s conference regarding the use of the word “community.” The statement makes the point that “community” advocates have high jacked the word and changed its meaning. These advocates use “community” in a very narrow and exclusionary way to try to advance their cause. We should not allow this to happen. We need to take back “community” and restore it to its proper use and meaning. Misericordia is community to our family members and we must consistently make that point. Please read the statement from ACCSES below and please use “community” in referring to Misericordia and all it offers our family members. By doing so, we can restore “community” to its proper meaning and prevent the advocates from misusing the word to their advantage.
Last week, ACCSES held its annual Winter Summit -- a great opportunity to exchange ideas. One idea that resonated with many attendees was the need to take back COMMUNITY. Words matter – and we need to help others recognize that CRPs and all community organizations that serve people with disabilities are an integral and important part of their communities. The idea that your workers and your residents are not “in the community” is silliness propagated by people who would take employment and residential choice away from people with significant disabilities. It cannot be allowed to continue. Going forward, please work with us to help others recognize reality: WE ARE THE COMMUNITY.
You are the community. Your organization is in the community.
If one of your workers leaves to go work somewhere else, he or she has not left to go “work in the community.” He or she has taken another job.
If some of the people you serve have an outing scheduled, they are not taking a trip “into the community.” They are going to lunch, to the movies, to the mall, or to a museum. You do not go “into the community” when you leave your offices – neither do they!
If a resident moves, they have not moved “into the community,” but simply moved.
The point is, our words need to reinforce the vital role you play in your communities. You provide much-needed and much-appreciated services. We want to honor that.
We therefore encourage all of you to post on your website: WE ARE THE COMMUNITY. Add to your e-mail signature: WE ARE THE COMMUNITY. Post in your places of business: WE ARE THE COMMUNITY.