The Association for Community Living is a network of parents, volunteers and professionals working together to achieve inclusive communities in which people with intellectual disabilities will be able to participate. Active in more than 400 communities across Canada, the association promotes such goals as integrated childcare and education programs, access to the same community programs that other citizens enjoy, and opportunities to become employed at regular jobs.
In 1985, the association changed its name from the Association for the Mentally Retarded at the request of people who themselves
had lived with the limiting and stigmatizing label “mentally retarded.” The term “community living” was intended to convey goals and outcomes for people, rather than negatively labelling a segment of the population and treating them differently.
In the absence of a major advertising campaign, the association’s new name has not achieved the same level of recognition as its
old name had enjoyed.
When Glenn McConnell, General Manager of Gould Outdoor Advertising in Toronto and a volunteer fundraiser for the association, offered the services of his company to design and implement a national advertising campaign, association leaders were ecstatic.
The ad, captioned with “My place is in the community… with !”, conveys a strong, positive message from people with intellectual disabilities. In the campaign photo to be carried on billboards across Canada, Beth Foulkes, a young woman with Down syndrome, is
shown at work at her job in Oakville, Ontario.
When Beth was born, doctors advised her family to place her in an institution. Her parents refused, and have been strong advocates
for their daughter’s inclusion in all aspects of the community — from school, to recreation programs, to work. Beth is now a confident, productive, happy employee at Monenco Agra, an international engineering and consulting company. She has previously worked for the Toronto Dominion Bank. She is earning her way, paying taxes and happily contributing to the economy and to society. She is a warm, caring member of our community, with a tremendous sense of responsibility and a wonderful sense of humour.
Through this campaign, Beth represents the more than 815,000 Canadians who have an intellectual disability and have traditionally been denied access to schools, programs, and employment in the community. The Association for Community Living has convincingly demonstrated that people with intellectual disabilities are valuable assets to our communities, and belong in our midst.
People with intellectual disabilities today live with the real risk of being forgotten and further marginalized in the process of cutting budgets, streamlining services and redesigning social programs. This campaign is intended to ensure that the voices of people who have disabilities are heard, and that they are enabled to exercise their right to contribute to the economy and to society.
Thanks to the commitment of Gould Outdoor Advertising and The Outdoor Partnership,Canadians with intellectual disabilities will have a chance to tell the public that they want to be included. They want to, and can be, part of all of our communities.
(For more information, contact Melodie Zarzecny, Director of Operations and Communications, at the Canadian Association for
Community Living, Tel.: (416) 661-9611 or 1-800-856-2207.)