Community Living BC, a provincial crown organization, supports innovation that advances citizenship of people with disabilities in B.C. This year, CLBC recognized the innovative work of Barb Goode, one of the earliest community organizers among people with disabilities.
In 1986, Barb's efforts led to the Supreme Court decision that prevents the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities for non-medical reasons; in 1992, she became the first Canadian with a disability to speak to the UN General Assembly.
But it is perhaps the less momentous achievements of Barb's career that will be her most lasting legacy: a profound change in the way our society values and treats people with developmental disabilities. In her travels to places as far-flung as New Zealand, Kenya, Jamaica, Italy and Amsterdam, her messages of self-advocacy and full citizenship for the disabled have reached a global audience.
Barb doesn't describe herself as an activist, or consider her accomplishments particularly special. "I always just did what I wanted to do," she says. "I've just been trying to get along like anyone else."
She has been an enthusiastic volunteer since she was 12 years old. During the landmark Rights Now project, her grass-roots community organizing was a powerful force in breaking down stereotypes about people with developmental disabilities.
Throughout her life, she has been inspired and encouraged by her parents, she says. "They always told me, 'Don't quit. Just keep going. Believe in yourself.'"
Although "they're in heaven now," Barb knows they are proud of her for recently winning a WOW!clbc award to recognize the difference she has made for so many people. "I miss them. But I still hear their voices every day."
The annual WOW!clbc Recognition Award is awarded by CLBC in recognition of the contributions honourees have made and continue to make towards ensuring community inclusion and full citizenship for people with development disabilities. Every year, the organization honours exemplary individuals in British Columbia who have made significant contributions to "good lives in welcoming communities."
Today, Barb sits on six different volunteer committees, where her creativity is matched only by her passion to contribute. "I don't want to be a token member, just being quiet and looking pretty. I want to be involved. I never want to retire."
One of the causes she is most passionate about today is the adoption of 'plain language,' making all forms and documents that people with developmental disabilities must complete or read more accessible. She's quick to ask, "Can you break that into two sentences?" when a question is unnecessarily complex.
"There are so many forms that people with disabilities are expected to fill out, and when they get something wrong, the forms are sent back," she says.
Although she's been recognized by world leaders and compared to heroes such as Terry Fox and Rick Hansen, Barb is very humble about her work.
"I still don't see it as being that special." As her parents told her, she says, "You just have to do what you want to do, even when other people think you can't. You just keep trucking along."
Inclusive communities benefit all
Community Living BC (CLBC), a provincial crown agency mandated under the Community Living Authority Act, delivers supports and services to adults with developmental disabilities and their families. CLBC is working to create communities where people with developmental disabilities have more choices about how they live, work and contribute.
Inclusiveness and a diverse population can add to the social and economic success of communities and improve the quality of life for all citizens. Inclusion means that all people, including those with disabilities, have a variety of opportunities to contribute to their communities through key roles such as employee, friend, spouse, volunteer and leader.
The result of inclusion is that people with disabilities benefit from society in ways that are equal to others. By being included, individuals with developmental disabilities can also "include" others into their way of seeing and understanding the world, enriching life for all.