inside what inclusion means to a west prince organization.
Walking into the Maple House Cafe, the friendly atmosphere greets a customer at the door and follows them the whole visit. Workers smile and greet customers to the left of the entrance at cash while to the right is the opportunity to continue to socialize with the open concept sitting area.
The Cafe is owned by an non-profit organization called Community Inclusions.
Community Inclusions works with citizens who have intellectual and physical disabilities along with people that have mental health problems. The non-profit organization and its workers allows everyone to have the opportunity to be treated equally and have the same rights everyone in the community does.
The organization is there for support, their many clients who come to them for employment, residential services, day programs and social rec. etc., says Kevin Portier the executive director.
Across the west prince area there are five Community Inclusions buildings including the Maple House Cafe in O’leary. The Café has been open for a quite some time but has moved into the old liquor store located on Ellis Avenue expanding the possibilities.
There is a day program in the back area where clients work on different things every day. While in the middle is the kitchen and there’s is an open door leading to the front where some of the clients help with different responsibilities such as cleaning tables, washing dishes and working cash.
Even though the organization educates people in the community on how everyone should be included there is still progress to be made to teach people that even with a form of disability everyone deserves a chance to be a part of the community.
Over the years Portier has noticed a big change in how anyone with a disability is treated.
When he was younger in school, there was a special needs class and the students would be off by themselves, he says.
“You would rarely see them in the school environment. You would see them a little bit, we worked with people with intellectual challenges in leadership class but most of the time it was either during that or on the bus on the way home.”
In the years since then, inclusions in the schools have approved, says Portier,
“It’s been a game changer, because people and their families, students and kids had to go through that and are coming out into the system now and are already integrated into the normal steams of their school systems, their school life.”
Working in the public in the café allows the clients to continue to keep that stream of interaction open. Community Inclusions doesn’t hide their clients from the world. And the Maple House Café allows the public to understand that everyone has hopes and dreams and should be treated like the rest of the population no matter what they might deal with on an everyday basis.
There are different degrees of disabilities and not one is the same, he says. “It’ learning to appreciate the person for who they are and celebrating that. Everyone is unique in their own way.”
Everyone has things they can’t do, including Portier himself, who has been diabetic for half his life. There are certain foods he cannot eat, says Portier. “If you ask me to fix a car, I can’t do that. We all to a degree have our challenges, a disability so to speak and people with a physical disability, mental health or intellectual seem to be more prominent.”
The label that was known years ago as “retard” is still there, but at the end of the day everyone's the same, wanting to be happy, get a job and have people around them to be respectful.
Community Inclusions is all about equalization and being respected. The organization allows the communities to see that everyone is one. That no one is more different than the other because of disability, there are obstacles in life for everyone. No one is better than the other.
The ideal goal for the organization is that everyone would be included, said Portier.
“But we’re not there yet. Basically we should be working ourselves out of a job. That’s inclusion. Where you don’t need a Community Inclusion because everyone is already included.”