BY: Natalie Miller
DATE: Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Local Community Living associations are realizing the importance of having a strong force of self-advocates, says the planning and resource manager for Community Living Campbellford-Brighton.
That may explain why more than 100 people are expected to attend a self-advocates’ conference in Campbellford Friday, says Leslie Steeves.

Advocates for Community Education (ACE) is hosting the conference, which will draw 86 self-advocates and 34 support staff and presenters from around the province. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Campbellford legion.

“So many Community Living (associations) right now are really becoming involved in the self-advocacy movement and seeing the benefits of having a strong, powerful self-advocacy group in terms of making changes within the agency,” says Leslie, planning and resource manager for Community Living Campbellford-Brighton.

“Who better to get input from than a self-advocate.” Self-advocates are people who have intellectual disabilities and advocate for themselves.

ACE is a group of self-advocates who has accessed services through Community Living Campbellford-Brighton. This is the second conference the group has organized and it has been called upon to speak to groups in Toronto and Ottawa in the past. ACE has nine executive members and its chairperson, Lynne Simpson, is also on the agency’s board of directors.

ACE members volunteer in the community and sit on committees. While some of their work involves discussing and resolving internal issues within the association and their satisfaction with services, members also work to improve inclusion in their community.

Each year, they attend Trent Hills and Brighton council meetings to help declare May as Community Living month. During a presentation at the Brighton town hall, self-advocates spoke about Community Living and its role. A self-advocate was later offered a job by the municipality. “It really sheds a new light on the movement towards inclusion,” says Leslie.

Friday’s conference features keynote speaker Laurie Thompson, special projects manager for Community Living Ontario. She will talk about new projects happening within Ontario’s self-advocate groups to promote inclusion and community awareness.

Lindy Powell, co-ordinator of the Developmental Service Worker (DSW) program for Loyalist College in Belleville, is the guest speaker. Lindy will lead an interactive workshop that asks self-advocates for input and suggestions on what they think students should be taught in the DSW program to prepare them to be quality support staff.

The afternoon also features sessions for support staff about how to start a self-advocate group and how using personal outcome measures has affected Community Living Campbellford/Brighton’s support of ACE.

Following the conference is a barbecue and dance.

While the conference is full, people seeking more information about ACE can e-mail Ken Knott, ACE’s support staff, at