Airport visit yields surprising outcome


Support workers play crucial role in creating communities of belonging: Doug Cartan
Tuesday May 22, 2012 — Michelle Strutzenberger

A weekly visit to the Vancouver International Airport is a seemingly small activity, but, as a recent surprising twist underscored, it’s proving to be exactly what creating communities of belonging is all about.

Every week Bev Beaton and two men she supports through the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI) take the bus and SkyTrain from downtown Vancouver to the airport where they spend the afternoon watching planes take off and land.

It’s a time to get out and about, and also to learn something new.

“We’re not just sitting in a room with four walls doing nothing,” says Bev. “We’re out; we’re active; we’re interested in the planes.”

On one of those trips several weeks ago, a fellow SkyTrain passenger overheard Bev and one of the men discussing the route they were taking. This man is particularly interested in noting each of the landmarks along the way.

As they were disembarking at the airport, the passenger mentioned with a smile that if she didn’t know her way already, their conversation would certainly have helped her figure it out.

It turns out she’s the director of communications for the Vancouver International Airport, and, as they talked further, Bev saw a great chance to solicit her help for some learning she’s been wanting to do with the two men.

She asked whether the director had any brochures to identify the plane, and was told she would certainly look into it.

It took a little while, but on one of their Friday visits, the team of three found a package waiting for them at one of the airport information desks.

Bev also learned the director had thought the brochures were such a good idea she’d made a bunch and they were proving a big hit with other airport visitors. Evidently Bev and the two men she works had sparked a new learning tool for the larger community.

Bev’s next plans include using the brochures on each visit, to learn more about the planes they see every week.

Ontario-based community living consultant Doug Cartan says he believes developmental services workers play one of the most important roles in creating communities of belonging.

“We talk about all these values that we espouse — respect, dignity, individualization, inclusion, autonomy —  (they’re) actualized, to a large extent, for many people, in the relationship with the hourly wage paid person and the person with the disability.”

In the past three years, Doug has traveled the province widely, highlighting the crucial role of these workers and holding conversations about the changes — however small they might be — that can help create optimal life experiences for and with people.

He delves into the value of what Bev is already doing, that is, making it a regular practice to consider what new learning experiences can be promoted with a person who has a disability.

— More to Come

Feel free to comment below, or e-mail michelle(at)

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One Response to “Airport visit yields surprising outcome”

  1. Vancouver airport reps inspired by BACI group’s passion « BACI Blast Says:

    […] For a related story, click here. […]

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