The Rights and Responsibilities of Being a Citizen

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As we progress as a society in our understanding and appreciation of the rights of people who have developmental disabilities and shift from a paradigm of charity and “the more fortunate helping the less fortunate” to one of respect and thoughtful support, we will necessarily start to talk about the responsibilities that come with being a citizen in an inclusive community. However, without full rights for people with developmental disabilities, in written policy and real practice, the responsibilities of being a citizen remains largely a theoretical concept. When specifically examining employment in the community, the right to work must be fully supported by the community before the responsibility to work becomes the focus. We must get to the point that people who can work (and nearly all people can work) are expected to contribute to their community by working.

On a broad scope, Article 27 of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada ratified in 2010, states that countries must “recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others.” The article goes on to state that the work environment must be “open, inclusive, and accessible to persons with disabilities.” While these rights are not yet fully embraced by the community, there is cause to be optimistic that they will. Programs that support the employment of people with developmental disabilities, such as Semiahmoo House’s Customized Employment and community-minded employers, such as Fieldstone Artisan Breads, Cobs Breads and Morrison Café in South Surrey are seeing the benefits of inclusive hiring practices.

It has been my observation that employers that are inclusive in their hiring practices share the following traits:

Community-Minded

Employers think beyond their business and consider what is good for their community. This is a win-win situation as a business will do better in a strong community.

Creative

Employers are willing to look at traditional job roles in their workplace and customize them to fit the needs of the employee. Again, this is a win-win situation as the employer is able to get the best from each employee by having them focus on what they are best at.

Person-Centered

Employers see their employees as people and treat them accordingly. They assume that things will work for the best and are willing to work with employees and their support people to make this happen.

In an inclusive community, where housing, employment, transportation, and recreation are accessible to all, there are rights and responsibilities for citizens. For people who have developmental disabilities, the shift of focus from rights to responsibilities will be a welcome one as it will come when all people are fully included as citizens, in action as well as in word.

Doug Tennant, Executive Director

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Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. 

The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

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