People Are People: Inclusion BC Leads The Way For A BC Where Everyone Belongs

Inclusion BC advocates for British Columbians with intellectual and developmental disabilities

By Spencer van Vloten

BC Disability

July 23rd. 2021

For nearly 70 years, Inclusion BC has been at the forefront of advocacy to enhance the lives of British Columbians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Spencer van Vloten talked with Inclusion BC's Executive Director Karla Vershoor about the organization's history, the current challenges it's tackling, and how to make a difference in the life of someone with an intellectual or developmental disability.

Spencer: Inclusion BC recently celebrated an anniversary of sorts - tell us about the organization's background.

Karla: In June we had our 66th AGM, so we’ve been around a while, but we’ve been through a lot of change during that time.

Inclusion BC originated as 5 separate family groups that came together to build homes and schools to bring children out of institutions. Families wanted better lives for their loved ones out in the community. The large scale institutions have closed, but many of the same problems exist.

From the original 5 family groups, we now have 61 member organizations around province. We're part of Inclusion Canada, which is part of Inclusion International, so we belong to a global web furthering the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities.

Spencer: What about your own background working with people with diverse abilities?

Karla: My aunt has an intellectual disability and moved out of institution into the community – so our work has deep roots in my family’s story.

I moved to BC from Ontario 15 years ago, and at that time reached out to the BC Association for Community Living (now Inclusion BC) because I wanted to be involved in the work they were doing.

Karla (left) at the parliament building in Ottawa with Inclusion BC team members Bendina (centre) and Fiona (right)

I started as a volunteer, then had my first job as a self-advocate coordinator, helping self-advocates find own voice, and working with former residents of Woodlands and other institutions.

I went through pretty much every role in the organization, until ending up here as the executive director!

Spencer: What are the main issues Inclusion BC's focused on now?

Karla: When you do advocacy for years after years after years, you start to see pain points in the system.

Right before the 2020 provincial election we wrote to all the major provincial parties about t