Imagine a society where people with developmental disabilities are contributing citizens to the community with equal rights and the chance to live full, productive and meaningful lives. Envision a culture whereby promoting strengths, bridging differences, and creating community could build a world where people learn from one another and thrive.
That's what Community Ventures Society (CVS) has been committed to doing for more than 40 years in the Tri-Cities and across Metro Vancouver. CVS continues supporting individuals (both children and adults) with developmental disabilities alongside their families, to support setting and achieving goals that will increase opportunities for growth, development and greater independence.
"We want to open the door to opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and their families so they can live the life they choose," says Pete Stone, director of human resources and quality assurance, with CVS.
"We really want to help enhance the quality of our services in different ways and we strive to inspire other people in the community to join us in creating positive social change."
CVS executive director, Linda King, echoes Stone, and further emphasizes supporting the families. "When we support the family, that person benefits from our services, not just while they're in our programs or attending different sessions, but when they're in their own homes with their families."
As a catalyst for positive social change, CVS is dedicated to bridging the gap between community inclusion and community integration.
Inclusion versus integration
King is quick to distinguish that integration can be described as simply sharing a space where the person just happens to be there with you, while inclusion is more about providing a valuable role, with responsibilities and the opportunity to create meaningful connections.
CVS supports the role of advocacy as leaders of inclusion in the wider community through their broad range of programs and activities.
Lower employment rates have often been the case for people with disabilities; however, with CVS's dedicated focus on social enterprises and their Employment program, the workforce for individuals with disabilities continues to grow.
"We've definitely seen an uptick," admits Stone. "With the labour shortage in B.C., a lot of employers are rethinking their approach, and instead of trying to weed out potential employees, they're thinking about trying to reduce the barriers to get those employees in."
"Our Employment program helps connect people with developmental disabilities with businesses that fit their needs," explains King. "We provide training and job shadowing to ensure success for both parties, plus we educate businesses on the benefits of hiring a person with a developmental disability."
"The wonderful thing about businesses that hire people with developmental disabilities," she adds, "is they're creating both social inclusions as well as economic inclusions for that person."
Individuals with a developmental disability deserve to become an integral part of their community and not just be on outings in their community.
"Partnering with businesses is a really big part of our Employment program," says Stone. "It's one of our biggest steps to support inclusion, helping people find jobs with valued roles in the community. Particularly, businesses like Port Moody's Black Sugar, PoCo's COBS Bread and Port Coquitlam BIA, just to name a few."
“Employment enhances the quality of everybody's life," says King. "We all make connections at work, and it's a great opportunity for somebody with a developmental disability to network with others."
A goal for their community inclusion program is to support meaningful participation within the community and to ensure that inclusion is multidimensional with an extensive range of activities that enhance quality of life.
"Our Community Inclusion program is about being part of a community as much as possible, giving individuals a sense of belonging in the activities they do in their day-to-day," explains King. "It's building life skills, it's recreation, it's supporting them to connect in the community in different ways."
"We have a strong belief that one person can make a difference in another person's life," says King.