Since its inception, one of the primary goals of Epic Opportunities has been to empower the people it serves, whether it’s at home, at work or in the community.
Empowerment is one of the key components of a new undertaking Epic Opportunities is launching this summer. The organization recently began developing the framework for a rights committee that will help to educate people it serves about what their individual rights are and how they can ensure that those rights are being upheld.
A series of meetings was held in mid-June to inform families served by Epic Opportunities about plans for the committee and to answer any questions family members had. The committee is expected to begin meeting sometime later this summer.
Executive Director Ruby Reimer says the key reason the committee is being developed is to make sure the people Epic Opportunities serves are fully informed when it comes to knowing what their rights area.
“People who lives with intellectual disabilities are often underserved when it comes to knowing their rights. Historically, as a community, we’ve not ensured people are well educated in this area,” she explains.
“The people we serve are now more empowered and are asking questions and speaking up about the services they receive. We hope this committee will help raise those voices and empower people even further. It’s about giving people the tools and resources to take this even further.”
Service Development and Outcomes Specialist Stacey Forest and other staff have already approached a number of people served by the organization to serve on the proposed committee. The initial reaction to the idea was largely positive.
“The people we’ve spoken with about it have been very receptive to it and we’ve heard from people that they are excited to be part of it,” Reimer says.
One of those people is Katie, a wife and mother of two who has been served by Epic Opportunities for more than a decade. A staunch supporter of self-advocacy, Katie says the committee has the potential to do a lot of good for people living with intellectual disabilities.
“I like the idea they are going to try and do more in this area. Hopefully we can achieve something really good and help a lot of people learn what their rights are and speak up for their rights and ask for help when they need it,” she says.
One of the unique aspects of the committee will be the fact that it will be self-directed. That means that even though Epic Opportunities will provide the committee with any necessary resources and help members to connect with external resources they may require, it will be members who determine the committee’s priorities. That includes coming up with a name for the committee and setting its agenda.
“We want this to be a self-driven program. We want the people on the committee to determine what’s important and what they are passionate about,” Reimer says. “We basically want to stay out of their way so they can do what they think is important.”
Reimer says it’s hoped that the committee will be able to utilize some of the information that’s already been compiled on people’s rights by organizations such as Abilities Manitoba and People First of Manitoba, an organization that represents people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and is focused on self-advocacy.
In addition to developing the rights committee, Epic Opportunities is in the process of seeking accreditation through the Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL). CQL is an independent organization that provides accreditation, training, certification, research and consultation to human service organizations with a focus on person-centred discovery through personal outcome measures. Accreditation would formally acknowledge Epic Opportunities’ commitment to honouring people’s rights and empowering them to be the drivers of change in their own lives.
“It’s something we want to do because it’s the right thing to do and to improve the quality of the services we provide to people,” Reimer says.