How to break the isolation of people with disabilities?
Sandro François and Norma Susana Amicone, members of the Board of Directors of the Radisson Community Center. The organization aims to develop the autonomy and civic participation of people with one or more physical disabilities in a context of community life.
Among the 16% of the Quebec population aged 15 and over who live with a disability*, a quarter live alone, compared to 16% of people without a disability.
The Radisson Community Center works to break this isolation of people with disabilities, who daily encounter barriers to fully participating in society. It helps them, for example, to find a job.
“Our organization's mission is to promote the civic participation of adults with one or multiple physical disabilities through educational, cultural, social and leisure activities,” says Emmanuel Barbot, general manager of the community center, which welcomes more than 100 members from the greater Montreal area.
“When we choose activities, it's not just to pass the time, we come here because we want to learn things” , says Norma Susana Amicone, member of the community center since 2014 and of the board of directors.
“For example, we can make use of the computers in the computer lab when we have research or work to do for workshops or whatever. It's really important and useful!”, expresses the smiling sixty-year-old of Italian-Argentinian origin.
December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Learning and developing independence
Members of the Radisson Community Center have the opportunity to forge their own development trajectory, choosing to participate in games, crafts, dance, cultural exploration, computer science, French or get involved in Citizen Action committees, the library or the “corner convenience store”.
Most workshops are offered at a modest price of $17 per session, but many others are free. Members choose the number of workshops they want to attend each season.
“Our members always participate with pleasure and joy, it’s very important for them, because it’s the place where they can be themselves,” says Mr. Barbot, who believes in >45 the number of workshop participants per day.
The “corner store” committee allows members to learn about financial management. “Our members operate the convenience store that opens during the breaks we have during the day. They manage the money themselves and decide what they need to buy back for the store,” says Mr. Barbot.
The library committee, for its part, allows members to get involved in managing the borrowing of nearly 350 works listed in the bookmark library, set up by members.
“ De-infantilizing” people with disabilities
Ms. Amicone told us that she appreciated the meetings of the Citizen Action Committee, which value the members' freedom of expression on the issues that concern them.
“It’s very important to me, because we can express our thoughts, give our opinion and defend the rights of people with disabilities,” she says proudly.
“This workshop puts forward de-infantilization, empowerment and democratization. These are very important concepts that members can put forward today to show that they feel fulfilled and respected as adults and decision-makers,” added Mr. Barbot, who said he was impressed by the involvement of members in the community life of the center.
“They understand their mobilizing power to bring about change in society.”
18 to 34 year olds represent 27% of Center members Radisson community, while 57% are aged 35 to 64 and 16% are 65 and over.
Raise awareness with humor
“I really liked the improvisation workshop and now I like the Blague à part workshop, where you learn how to structure jokes,” says Sandro François, who says he fell in love with the Radisson Community Center during an open day in 2018.
Living with a speech disability after suffering two strokes at the age of 25, Mr. François approaches life with great resilience. He is currently working, alongside the other participants in the workshop, on a project to raise awareness, aimed at the general public, of the daily challenges of people with physical disabilities.
“We are making short video capsules humorous to show the general population the situations that we experience as people with disabilities which can be very frustrating,” cheerfully explains the thirty-something man, member of the organization’s board of directors.
The Blague à part workshop is an amateur artistic practice project of the City of Montreal, newly offered at the Radisson Community Center, in partnership with the National School of Humor.
“Creativity, the commitment and dynamism of the members are the ingredients that make the Center a place of fulfillment where it is good to live, laugh, create friendships, learn and evolve in an environment where inclusion is very real and multifaceted”, indicates the common center autaire Radisson.
*Source: Canadian Survey on Disability 2017
This text was produced as part of The of local journalism.