With a new name and a new look, the nonprofit organisation Inclusion Cayman is entering 2021 by doubling down on its commitment to defend the rights and interests of people with disabilities.
Formerly known as Special Needs Foundation Cayman, the organisation changed its name to Inclusion Cayman to better reflect its work to ensure that people with disabilities have equal rights and can participate fully in the local community.
Additionally, the term ‘special needs’ is now seen as being outdated and carries a negative connotation for people with disabilities, according to the group.
Inclusion Cayman’s mission is “to support the community in the commitment to cultivating and upholding values and practices that ensure the equal rights of ALL individuals and families, regardless of ability”, according to its new website, inclusioncayman.ky.
The charity was established in 2008 by parents seeking more support for their children with disabilities. In 2018, the organisation opened its physical headquarters in George Town and increased the size of its staff. The charity officially relaunched as Inclusion Cayman in late October 2020.
Inclusion Cayman now works with more than 400 families in the Cayman Islands.
Inclusion Cayman CEO Susie Bodden said, “Many individuals with disabilities and their families in the Cayman Islands live very exclusionary and segregated lives from birth through to adulthood. Individuals with disabilities are not provided the same rights, privileges and opportunities to access their communities due to the systemic barriers they face. This is largely notable in education, recreation, community and employment.”
While Cayman currently has specialised facilities (such as Lighthouse School) for students with disabilities, Inclusion Cayman advocates for all children to be in the classroom together.
“In the Cayman Islands children with disabilities are often placed in special schools or support units without any access or consideration of other options. This decision is often made for families – from school entrance age – and/or at different times in a child’s educational career,” according to the website.
Bodden said, “Inclusion Cayman firmly believes that inclusive education is foundational in ensuring access to an inclusive life from birth through to adulthood. Successful inclusive education requires a commitment to cultivating the value of diversity, a dedication to ensuring the belonging of all, as well as explicit provision of the supports required to ensure an equitable learning environment where all children learn, play and grow together.”
“Inclusion Cayman offers schools support to build capacity for mainstream schools to become more inclusive of individuals with disabilities so that segregated education is not the only option. Our approach is tailored for each school and our aim is to support the development and implementation of quality inclusive education practices,” she said.
For children with disabilities who wish to engage in activities such as sports, music, the arts or youth groups, Inclusion Cayman will support families by contacting service providers on their behalf to discuss their participation. Additionally, the charity will offer support to the service providers on the importance of inclusion.
“We want to support families and individuals with disabilities in accessing the same recreation that any child without a disability would access. We also support recreation providers in creating welcoming and inclusive environments for all,” Bodden said.
Through its partnership with local Rotary clubs, Inclusion Cayman is working to help adults with disabilities to secure real, paid jobs that give them independence, purpose and a sense of value, and that also help employers.
“Many adults in our Cayman community wish to be employed and participate as contributing members of our community. The Rotary Employment Partnership assists adults with disabilities in accessing paid, sustainable employment opportunities,” Bodden said.
“We offer Employers ongoing assistance and education to support their employment of adults with disabilities. We work to create real jobs, raise awareness about the potential of persons with disabilities and strengthen our communities by promoting the inclusion and participation of all members in our society,” she said.
Bodden said, “A common misconception about persons with disabilities is that they belong only in special places with specialised staff and resources. Persons with disabilities, their families and advocates believe that all people have the same inherent rights and privileges.”
“Globally and in our community, historical segregation and marginalisation of persons with disabilities has constructed this belief. It is our mission to deconstruct the systems that consistently maintain the oppression of persons with disabilities,” she said.
Bodden said, “Inclusion Cayman is committed to working endlessly in reducing the systemic, physical, attitudinal and institutional barriers that exclude persons with disabilities in our community.”