Why Inclusion Matters and How The Strong National Museum of Play Showcases Inclusion

Programs and Services, Stories Of People We Support

Fairport Day Services is one of many programs at The Arc of Monroe that encourages community exploration and empowers the people we support to live more fulfilling lives. Recently, Fairport Day Services hit the road for a visit to Strong National Museum of Play.

From the outset of their visit, The Strong displayed inclusion in a myriad of ways. From offering an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, to having wheelchair accessible exhibits, to offering sensory-friendly accommodations, The Strong ensured that each guest felt welcomed and valued in the museum.

“Inclusion is beyond the wheelchair ramp to get into the door or the elevator to get to the second floor,” Deone Dohner, Team Leader at Fairport Day Services, said. “So much is just building that relationship of acceptance and understanding. To have an ASL interpreter go with you through an entire educational museum breaks down a barrier. And then I learned that they have a collaboration with AutismUp for environmental modifications. Again, the people we support are able to go somewhere and break down those barriers in order to have a great experience. As a staff, it helps us learn so much, and it deepens our relationship. We can provide them with greater quality of life.”

Because each person received accessibility they deserve at The Strong, they were able to immerse themselves in the exhibits and fully enjoy the experience. The Sesame Street portion of the museum was especially heart-warming for staff to witness as people they support experienced it with child-like joy and excitement. They began to express themselves through words and non-verbal gestures that staff had never seen before. It showcased perfectly why inclusion matters.

“What we experienced at The Strong Museum was eye-opening,” Deone said. “There is a level of educational skills that vary from person to person, and we were able to go through each phase of the museum learning with them. Whether someone loved their comic books and is having a full conversation with Batman – which we’ve never gotten out of him before – or just the educational aspect, it’s iconic. I had representatives from every single room, on every physical aspect, and everybody was able to gain something. To me that’s priceless.”

Deone has worked at The Arc of Monroe for 26 years, her mother for 28. Advocating for the inclusion of people with disabilities has become second-nature for her. Before her official start at The Arc of Monroe, Deone would visit as she was working toward a degree in cosmetology. She quickly realized that the people her mom supported couldn’t go out into their community for a haircut.

“They didn’t have access to getting a haircut then. I was doing it for them in their home because they couldn’t even get through the door of salons. I think that’s where it all started,” Deone said. “I had this very basic skill to give a proper haircut, and then we just built relationships from there. As simple things started to become accessible, I started to see our community open up. The people I supported said, ‘Finally I get to do this. Finally I get to go to the Opera.’ So, we brought them to Phantom of the Opera. Never in my life would I have been able to experience that, only because the people supported finally said, ‘yes, I want to go there’ and they could.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990. This civil rights legislation prohibited discrimination and guaranteed that people with disabilities had the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life. It opened the door for people with disabilities to really become thriving members of their community. While there is still work to be done, we’ve come a long way from people not being able to go out for something as simple as a haircut. Businesses and organizations like The Strong are helping pave the way for what that could look like.

The Arc of Monroe continues to advocate for the inclusion of all people in our communities, and we could not do it successfully without our dedicated staff, devoted families, and generous community partners. Every time an organization or leader in Monroe County takes a stand to create meaningful change, people with disabilities are able to thrive in new ways.

Click here to learn more about Fairport Day Services and The Arc of Monroe’s SELF at Strong program. If you’re interested joining our team visit, www.ArcMonroe.org/Careers to see our open positions and apply online.