We launched Integrate for Good in July of 2017 to expand opportunities for people with disabilities to contribute their time and talent for the purpose of strengthening local communities. From a very early age, individuals with disabilities are called “special,” and quickly become the recipients of assistance. Those living with disabilities, and just as importantly the larger community are presented with an understanding of people with disabilities as recipients of service from others, not as capable providers of service. The relationship is imbalanced, lacking reciprocity. Talents go untapped, organizations miss out on benefits offered by potential volunteers, and a charity-based mindset depicting individuals with disabilities as “consumers of service” is perpetuated.
We embrace the words of poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “You can’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.” We help remove that extra glove, empowering people to get in the game as pitchers as well as catchers, receiving services, but also sharing their talents and abilities as valued members of the community.
Integrate for Good challenges all of us to look through a different lens, embracing a strength-based perspective which accepts disability as a natural part of the human experience, not as something special and stigmatizing. We see disability as a valued kind of diversity, and we believe that our communities are able to thrive best when the talents and contributions of all people can be realized and captured.
We don’t see people with disabilities as broken, or needing to be fixed. Rather, we see a community as weakened when it fails to capitalize on the strengths and contributions of all people. By welcoming people of all abilities into community service, we integrate and strengthen our community, making it whole.