It’s an exciting time for local support agency KW Habilitation. After almost five years of planning and campaigning for a brand new building, they are inching closer to starting the project. The proposed building will include a café and several brand new resources for the many people who make use of KW Habilitation’s services. Associate Editor HG Watson sat down with Ann Bilodeau, executive director of KW Habilitation services to chat about how to get people living the good life.
HGW: Tell me a little bit about the campaign to get a new building for KW Habilitation.
AB: The history in this building goes back to the early seventies. If you look at the field of developmental services in the early seventies, it’s very different than it is today. It was very much a model of the office in the front and the people we support in the back doing the light industry in the community. It used to be called a sheltered workshop for a lack of a better word, which is not the word today. Thank goodness the field has really shifted over the years.
2007 was when we started this whole adventure. That was for several reasons. One, it’s an old factory and an old factory is not okay anymore for adults who have a developmental disability. Two, the building is falling apart and when you start looking at costs of what it would cost to improve it, getting it up to code it was going to be a couple million dollars.
HGW: Will the new building make it easier for the people coming to participate in programs at KW Habilitation?
AB: They come to participate in activities that they choose to do in their life so it’s very different. Adults that have a developmental disability have many options today, so they would come here to participate in what is valued to their day. Certainly there is a list of things that they can do — they can go to Zumba class and participate in that, and we have the studio, which is right out back.
The day in the life of a person who has a developmental disability is very different today. The way we look at it is that we’re participating as an organization in helping people have a good life. If you look at what… habilitation means, it’s not rehabilitation. It’s not a broken arm that can be rehabbed. It’s habilitation, which means good life. We look at it as supporting a good life and building a good life depending on where the participants are at.
HGW: Your contribution to the community isn’t limited to assisting people with developmental disabilities.
AB: The reality is we employ over 600 people and have almost 30 homes in K-W. We also have one of the largest preschool programs in Waterloo Region… we have certainly a very strong youth program and strong employment program where over 160 adults are in community working at minimum wage or better. We’ve moved a long way baby!
Strong citizenship is also something we believe in. Many of the people we support are involved in traditional volunteer in the community.
HGW: Who will run the new café that you’re putting in the centre?
AB: We’ll be doing it all. We have a couple of cool ideas there we get really excited about it because we truly believe that the day in the life of a person can change drastically from coming in.
HGW: When does construction start on the new building?
Shovel in ground will be the end of February 2013. Initial plans are for three floors; first floor is all about the people we support. The main thing about this building is that it will be welcoming for anyone.
If you’re interested in supporting KW Habilitation’s AchieveAbility campaign, visit kwhab.ca/donate/achievability/