Valley Life for All: Being inclusive is about giving voice | VailDaily.com

Valley Life for All: Being inclusive is about giving voice

Erin Gallimore
Special to the Vail Daily
The cover of "Redifining the Perception of Challenge."
Special to the Daily

Each month, you find a story on the pages of this newspaper that introduces a person in our local communities who lives with a physical, mental or emotional challenge. These stories are brought to you by the Valley Life for All Inclusion Campaign. Valley Life for All is a nonprofit organization serving Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle Counties with a vision of building inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute.

When many months ago a small group of Valley Life for All staff brainstormed around the question of how we could build inclusive communities, we concluded the best way to start making change was to help people see beyond a “disability” to a person. If people didn’t see Downs Syndrome but saw Henry or didn’t see a wheelchair but saw Corey, perceptions could change.

Our goal would be to distribute the voices of people with “disabilities” in order to educate and empower others to change many stereotypical perceptions. Through this education and advocacy effort, people could see that what we have in common is greater than our differences. People could understand that we have stronger communities when we embrace all people as having the ability to contribute to the common good.

We settled on the name of the inclusion campaign: Voiceability. While seemingly simple, the meaning is complex. We wanted our campaign to give people the ability to voice their experiences. Most importantly, we wanted our campaign to voice ability. We wanted it to shift perspectives in normalizing disabilities and recognizing that we all have our own personal challenges. Ultimately, we felt people needed to understand each other before they could include each other. We needed to help redefine the perception of challenge.

So, we sought out stories. We asked our friends and neighbors to share their voices and their experiences. We have distributed these in print, on the air, online and social media. With the help of our media partners and business sponsors, we have reached thousands of people with these engaging stories. We are excited to announce another medium to hold these special voices: our inaugural voiceability book, “Redefining the Perception of Challenge” available at http://www.valleylifeforall.org.

As Dianna Hardy said, “It only takes one voice, at the right pitch, to start an avalanche.” That voice started as a question, followed by the echo of many stories. May that avalanche find no end until the perception of challenge has been redefined, our community voices ability, and all find their place in an inclusive community where everyone can belong and contribute.

Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. We want to hear your voice. Request a training or join the conversation at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or #voicability4all. Help us redefine the perception of challenge.