In the last few decades strides have been made by communities in B.C. to be more inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities, said Laura Klassen from the Williams Lake Association for Community Living Association during a presentation to city council Tuesday.
October is Community Living Month in B.C.
While it has been celebrated since 2002, raising awareness has been around since the 1950s when parents of children living with intellectual disabilities began trying to see the treatment changed, Klassen said.
“They started to get together to try and make some changes so our children could be educated with other children,” Klassen said. “If you go back in history, our first institution for people with intellectual disabiltiies was in 1872 in Victoria harbour and they say that building had no insulation and the residents lived in horrendous conditions.”
Institutions were often places of abuse and families, Klassen said, adding today B.C. does not have institutions any longer.
In the 1970s there was a move in the province to try and close institutions, and in 199 Woodlands in New Westminster, B.C. was closed.
“One of the things that we look for is inclusion and not segregation in our communities,” Klassen said. “Here in Williams Lake it was different because we were further away from institutions so sometimes people were raised with their families and were a big part of the community.”
She congratulated the city’s accessibility committee for including someone on the committee that has an intellectual disability.
Klassen was joined at council by Linda Evans who invited the community to a celebration at the longhouse on Wednesday, Oct. 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to celebrate Community Living Month.
“We will have pizza lunch and a kickball game,” Evans said before she handed out invitations to all members of council.”
City coucillor Laurie Walters told Klassen she would like to meet in the near future to discuss how Williams Lake is doing as far as being inclusive goes.
“Sometimes it’s about educating people,” Klassen responded. “It’s important to let someone use whatever abilities they have. What can we do to allow people to live a full life?”
City council also proclaimed October as community living month in Williams Lake, and Coun. Scott Nelson read the proclamation out loud.
“I think it’s important so the public knows what we are supporting,” Nelson said.
Anyone who needs a ride to the luncheon can call Laura at 250-302-1346.