Working with the handicapped has taught Kelly Lagace that “people are people regardless of the disabilties or abilities they have.” Kelly graduated with a diploma in Rehabilitation Services and had two years’ experience as a rehabilitation aide before starting her career at the Association.
Kelly’s first placement was as an aide to two adult women clients. In the course of her work, she encountered people who had difficulty understanding the handicapped. Kelly notes that they became very uncomfortable around her clients and would tend to tune them out. She thinks that they missed out on interacting with two very interesting and dynamic women, Kaye Whiteman and Doris Bourgeois, who were fun to work with and had a lot to offer to anyone who would take the time to get to know them. Both women have since passed away and Kelly has still has fond memories of the time she spent with them.
Kelly moved on from her position as a residential aide and became a supervisor at New Generations, the Association’s used clothing store. She was in charge of thirteen clients whose work there involved general cleaning, pricing and washing toys. Kelly’s job was to keep all the clients busy and organized.
Kelly is currently working with the Community Service Options (CSO) program. She has spent the past two years developing new employment opportunities for the clients. She also does on the job training for clients until they are independent in the work environment.
Although many of the handicapped are aware of the differential treatment they occasionally encounter in the workplace and in the community at large, Kelly says that they have a strong social network within their own community. They have formed close relationships with their peers and this can help to dispel the effect of the bad attitudes they sometimes encounter.
One of the biggest hurdles to face in Kelly’s position is to approach employers and describe what the program is all about. She says that there is a wide variety of attitudes to deal with and that she is never sure what reception she will get when she calls to enquire about employment opportunities for the handicapped. Many of the potential employers are positive and very enthusiastic about finding ways to include the handicapped as employees.
In the past ten years Kelly has seen an increase in community involvement by the clients.
The clients are way more out there. Every body is very busy in this community.