Project Update #2: Opening Minds and Doors to Welcome Inclusion

Professional Fellows alumnus Jim Mancini has continued work on his U.S. Alumni TIES Small Grant project, “Opening Minds and Doors to Welcome Inclusion.” From his initial symposium hosted at Microsoft in Washington state to his upcoming video series, Jim has worked to shift public understanding and interaction with people with disabilities.

You can see Jim’s previous post about his project here, and the work from other U.S. Alumni TIES Small Grant winners from the seminar “The New Frontiers of Global Public Health” here.

The Welcome Inclusion Initiative (WiN) is a grassroots movement in the Seattle, WA area with the primary goal to influence the culture of our local community to be a more inclusive and welcoming place for people with intellectual, behavioral and social differences and disabilities and their families.

WiN was inspired by the stories that we hear from individuals and their families. These can be stories of feeling ostracized or marginalized when out in the community. These are the stories of feeling like others are annoyed with their behavior or do not want them to be around. These stories lead to feelings of exclusion and isolation that many people live with every day. In addition, these stories are juxtaposed by wonderful stories of inclusion and welcome that the same families relate. Stories of kind words and actions from people in the community. Stories of someone going a little extra to help or simply reassure individuals that everyone is welcome and an important part of our community.

As a speech-language pathologist, I spend my days teaching children communication skills they can use to compensate for the deficits that make it challenging for them to engage and interact in society. What WiN attempts to do is instead target the community and teach the community to a more welcoming and inclusive place.

WiN aims to attain the goal of inclusion by working with the business community to provide training to those who interact directly with members of the community to help them be more inclusive to patrons. The training will focus on three main components — increasing awareness, increasing knowledge, and teaching skills. On my last blogpost I described a successful symposium that was hosted at Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA. Our target there was to increase awareness and engagement with the initiative. We have subsequently formed many partnerships in the Seattle area with others who share the same value and goals. A city-wide workgroup has been formed to make Seattle a “City of Inclusion.” Additionally, the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will be held in Seattle in early July 2018. This provides WiN with an opportunity to demonstrate to people from around the country a model for inclusion that could be replicated anywhere. This summer the mayor of Seattle decreed the first Wednesday of each month would be “WiN Wednesday.” Finally, a fellow Department of State program alumna Dr. Raphael Bernier and I, along with our training team, have begun working with local businesses and organizations to help organizations attain their inclusion goals. The photo below was taken at a training for the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA.

In mid-October, thanks to a grant funded by Alumni TIES, filming was begun to begin to tell the WiN story via short, emotional awareness videos. We partnered with a local production company, Arc Media to film interviews with different members of the community. Interviews were conducted with a single mother of twins with one child with Down syndrome, a father of a child with autism spectrum disorder, and an autistic adult woman. Questions were centered around addressing of the problem of inclusion in the community, relation of stories of both inclusion and exclusion and what we need to do to become a more inclusive society. The footage will be edited and clips will be released via our website as a regular series on WiN Wednesdays. Stay tuned for our initial videos to be released!

For more information about WiN, please take a look at our website. Any questions? Email Jim at james.mancini@seattlechildrens.org.

Written and contributed by Jim Mancini.

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) are regionally focused seminars for alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs.