Just because a self-advocate has an intellectual disability, it doesn’t mean that’s the only challenge they may face with respect to inclusion and equity. Other aspects of their identity, such as ethnicity or sexual orientation may play a role as well. Ilaneet Goren, Diversity Specialist at Community Living Toronto, will be presenting solutions to this problem at Community Living Ontario’s 62nd Annual Conference and AGM, in a presentation called “Bridging Diversity Toolkit: Tools and Resources for Embracing our Differences, Finding Commonalities, and Making Our Communities More Inclusive of Everyone.”
Goren describes the Bridging Diversity Toolkit, a free resource hosted on ConnectAbility.ca, as “an interactive way to learn and talk about diversity in simple and accessible ways. We looked at how we’re all celebrating our differences, acknowledging our common humanity, and focusing on our commonalities. How do we work together to build more inclusive and diversity-minded communities?”
The Toolkit, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, contains resources to help foster discussions around diversity, the ways in which we are all the same, and how the situation can be made better for everyone. This includes videos of people who have lived experience in this area. “So you have people from diverse cultural backgrounds, diverse faiths, sexual orientations, and gender identities,” Goren explained, “so there’s many different layers of diversity.”
“It also teaches people about intrasectionality[, ] What does it mean to have different parts of yourself, of your identity, intersecting to create a very unique and very particular experience? And also, what are some barriers and challenges that people face because of those intersections? So, for example, what does it mean to be a person of colour and have an intellectual disability? What does it mean to have a trans-identified person with an intellectual disability?”
Having such people discuss their own experiences in the videos has been a success so far. sprOUT Toronto is an inclusive program for LGBTQ individuals with intellectual disabilities that is operated jointly by Griffin Centre, Community Living Toronto and Vita Community Living Services, with Goren serving as a co-facilitator. She showed the videos to the group and they were very well-received. “This particular group of people with gender diversity and sexual orientation diversity, for them to hear their realities reflected and being openly discussed in a positive way is huge. Especially for people with disabilities.” sprOUT Toronto meets every second Monday at the 519 Church St. Community Centre.
She believes that society’s challenge is to “create an environment that is safe, positive, and inclusive for people with multiple and diverse needs and abilities. We also talk about how we’re similar to each other, and what can we do to make things better for everyone.” Everything in the Toolkit is written out in plain language that can be used in any community setting.
One of Community Living Toronto’s programs, Foster’s Clubhouse, will be having an event to screen the videos to staff and people supported. However, the association hopes to use Community Living Ontario’s conference as a real launchpad, as it’s the first time the Toolkit will be shown publicly to a wide audience. According to Goren, participating in the event “really allows us to use networks and to hear from other agencies about what their thoughts are on diversity-related issues and challenges that they’re experiencing, share resources, [and] learn ourselves.”
In closing, Goren stressed that she hopes the Toolkit will be a conversation-starter for diversity, inclusion, and equity in this sector, and they will be constantly seeking new content to help it grow. “We will continue to upload links, resources and handouts and sharing best practices. So, we hope that, in the next couple of years, it will continue to grow and grow, so that people will get excited about submitting ideas to us.”
– Daniel Share-Strom