By David F. Rooney
Imagine being so afraid or so embarrassed that you can’t speak out for yourself. It’s difficult for many people to envision; but that’s the situation some people with disabilities find themselves in.
Fortunately, though, there is help on the way in the form of a new Self-Advocacy Group being established here in town.
“We need a group to here to support each other,” says group proponent Rob Tippe. “And we need a voice for those who can’t speak up for themselves. I think that with the support of the community we can make changes.”
Rob knows whereof he speaks. Cursed by a ferocious stutter, he has worked hard to keep it from being an impediment to success.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my own life, but now I own my own business, own a house and I’m married,” he said.
But not everyone who is physically or developmentally disabled is as fortunate. Many fear being singled out, or ridiculed. Most Revelstokians think we have a kind and compassionate community but acts of cruelty and intolerance do occur here and all it takes is one or two instances like that to strike fear in the heart of someone who feels vulnerable and excluded because they are somehow made to feel different from everyone else.
Look at something as basic as wheelchair accessibility. How many of our shops and services are truly wheelchair accessible? Are even our City Hall and City Council Chamber accessible to those bound to wheelchairs? You know they are not.
Rob said he thinks there are about 80 people in Revelstoke who could benefit from a self-advocacy program. The concept is supported by City Councillor Linda Nixon, who attended the first meeting last week, and by Angie McLeod of Community Connections’s Revelstoke Adult Development Services (RADS).
“He has already had a successful group (meeting with about 14 potential members) and many people interested in joining,” she said in an e-mail to The Current. “We are working on securing a space at the Rec Centre so that more people can access the venue. (But) until we receive confirmation, we are unable to set a time, date, and location for the next meeting.”
Once the group is up and running with a regular meeting space and schedule Rob says he’d like to use technology like Skype to make it possible for experts in other cities to contribute by speaking with the group from a distance. It’s a marvelous idea.
Confidentiality is going to be a key to the group’s success, says Rob’s wife Susanne.
“A lot of people are afraid to talk about the issues that come up,” she said.
But that’s a hurdle the members can certainly overcome as they learn that speaking out within their group can help them face up to the social barriers that had previously intimidated them.
“People need a place where they can feel safe when they talk about things,” Rob said.
That’s what the Revelstoke Self-Advocacy Group aims to be.
For more information please contact Rob Tippe at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also click here to visit the Self-Advocacy Group’s Facebook page.
The Revelstoke Current will publishing another story about this much-needed group as soon as a venue and time have been found for its meetings.