Putting eyes on a forgotten population

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
Putting eyes on a forgotten population
The AMI TV film crew at work at Beyond 21 this past fall.

CORNWALL, Ontario – Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) TV have been chronicling the growth of an important institution in Cornwall.

What started as a grassroots movement in the Fall of 2009, has since grown into a community hub for developmentally disabled known as Beyond 21.

Beyond 21 was formed to fill the void of support in the lives of those living with developmental disabilities. Many of these individuals relied on the support they received in school, but when they are forced out of the school system at age 21, they, and there families were left without resources to turn to.

Beyond 21 became that resource to bridge the gap for these adults after high school.

The Vision Statement of Beyond 21 is: “To enable adults with developmental disabilities to live connected, respected, and contributing to our community.”

Tish Humphries, President of Beyond 21, and mother to a daughter with developmental disabilities, explained what it is like for parents and their adult children in a world that does not have the support Beyond 21 provides.

“I had a contact who worked with families who had children with developmental disabilities, he said its hard now but be prepared as it will get harder the older they get. He was entirely right and that was quite obvious when I was looking for opportunities for Emma once she turned 21,there was nothing,” Humphries said. ”

Two years ago, AMI came to Cornwall to chronicle Beyond 21, and they returned again this past fall to follow-up on the great developments of growth happening at the organization.

“Working with the AMI TV production crew was amazing,” said Jane McLaren, Executive Director of Beyond 21. “They made our participants feel so comfortable and also like superstars all at the same time.”

McLaren said that she hoped that the documentary being produced about Beyond 21 will generate understanding in the wider community.

“For me I hope the ‘take away’ is the realization that the participants we work with, and all individuals who have a developmental disability, are people just like the rest of us,” she said. “They have hopes, dreams, joys, sorrows, talents, and gifts. And they want to be recognized and seen as the adults they are not the disabilities they live with.  It was an opportunity to let people know that Beyond 21 is not a traditional  program where adults with developmental disabilities and are taken care of. It is a place where adults who have similar challenges chose to come together, share life, laughter, and learning, and encourage each other to be the best that they can be in our community.”

Humphries hopes that the work of AMI TV will shine a light on a sometimes forgotten population.

“My hopes is that by sharing this beautiful video they no longer be the”forgotten population,”” she said. “They are seen as adults with dreams and hopes. People will see the joy and laughter they share when they have friends. They will see the potential rather than the deficit.”

Beyond 21 is currently running a fundraising project to renovate a new home for their organization. For more information about supporting the project, see the Beyond 21 website.

The AMI TV documentary featuring Beyond 21 can be found on the AMI TV website here: https://www.ami.ca/category/our-community/media/adulting-life-after-high-school

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