I believe that an inclusive life starts with a clear vision of what is possible and must include high expectations, where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are fully contributing citizens benefiting from all that a life immersed in community has to offer. My commitment to supporting an inclusive life for my daughter and my desire for lifelong learning led me to complete a degree in Community Rehabilitation at the University of Calgary and prior to this a Rehabilitation Assistant Diploma at Capilano University. Most recently I led a systems change project initiated by STEPS Forward, to scale the impact of Inclusive Post-secondary Education and created The Advocacy Guide to Inclusive Post-secondary Education: For Families. In her personal life Marta is immersed in the cohousing lifestyle and enjoys sharing meals and snuggling babies in her intergenerational community.
MANDY YOUNG, President
BIO coming shortly
TAMARA HURTADO, Treasurer
Like so many other mothers of a child with a disability, I've become a fierce advocate for change. My journey into the disability movement is driven by love, determination, and a vision for a more inclusive equitable world. Community organizing is grounded in a deep belief in the power of group action to bring about meaningful and lasting change. I have learned to never underestimate the power of families to bring about these big changes one small step at a time.
Diversity is our strength as a society and by fostering an inclusive community we can harness the full potential of our communities. This is hard work and intimate work. The vision of Rea-L is to bring together families with a shared vision to support their family member's vision of what they want for a good life, an inclusive life and a life in community in valued roles.
This is hard and isolating work. Having a support system of like minded families to reflect on what does an inclusive life look like, to share experience and learning, to lighten the work, to question historical practices, and to generate new exciting ideas is essential to the sustainable of the work each individual family is doing.
Working as a family with other families is inspiring, humbling, and most of all so much more enjoyable than working in isolation. I am so glad to be a part of Families for Real and Authentic Lives (Rea-L)
SANDRA PHILLIPS, Secretary
Sandy Phillips is the board secretary at REA-L. She was born in Britain and went to 13 schools because her father was in the British Army and they moved constantly. In grade 8 in the UK Sandy attended a boarding school where they segregated her because she couldn't write or compute. This experience led Sandy to make a promise to her daughter when she was born with Down Syndrome and insist that she be included in regular classrooms from 1988 onwards. In Saskatchewan Sandy initiated an inclusive summer program for children with developmental disabilities paired with a child from Big Brothers and Sisters; which still exists today. In Victoria BC, Sandy also founded an inclusive initiative for students to audit courses at the University of Victoria which eventually amalgamated under STEPS Forward. Sandy believes that streaming children into segregation or special classes does a disservice to a student because at Sandy's 13th school she excelled and then went on to university to become a teacher; this would not have happened had she stayed in Britain in the special class
At 78, Sandy likes to play tennis, she says this is to keep her blood pressure down which started rising when she had to do so much advocacy.
HEATHER CARLEY, Member at Large
Heather Carley is a parent to 4 neurodiverse humans in Sidney BC. She met Jessica Humphrey and Sandra and Stephanie Phillips in the early years of parenthood and was relieved to find other mothers who were feeling the deep unease that she was. From the first days Heather knew that the language, opportunities, and visions for the future her children and family were presented with didn’t align what she knew to be true and possible. Jessica and Heather joined forces, together with their husbands, and started looking for other families with a vision of inclusion and belonging. In 2005 Heather & Jessica began job sharing the coordinator position for inclusive post-secondary at UVic and found mentorship in Tamara Hurtado, Judith Mosoff, Sandy Phillips, Janice Maxwell and Inclusion Alberta. As Heathers family grew, so did her dedication to full lifelong inclusion. She does this work because she has seen the differences in outcomes and opportunities, confidence & skills, well-being and joy that it brings to disabled people and the communities who widen to inclusion, accessibility and greater diversity.