The Care that Connects Us All

Dianne Cormier Northrup has for decades navigated the many challenges of ensuring her children receive the opportunities they richly deserve. As Robert and Lynn, pictured here, continue to live fulfilling lives, her family's story is further proof that inclusive and accessible communities are built one home at a time.

"It was a really hard thing that we did."

That's how Dianne Cormier Northrup describes the process of moving to a new community where her family's needs would be better met. With more amenities nearby, the move should have made their lives easier. But trading one neighbourhood for another meant that her two children, Robert and Lynn, would have to make new friends––a challenging rite of passage for any child, but even more so for those with a disability.

"Whenever I got involved with my neighbours, there were two wheelchairs, so it was not an easy thing," Cormier Northrup recounts. "Those barriers were hard for me."

While the Cormier Northrups eventually settled in, the challenges they faced are very real reminders of the need for support at home, and not just in the form of physical infrastructure: with her children's futures at stake, Dianne and her family knew that creating an inclusive, accessible environment would require the support of a broader community.

EMPOWERING THE HOME

Fortunately, a shift in both thinking and policy was about to make it easier for people like Robert and Lynn to live where they wished. Whereas nursing homes had, for years, been the most likely destination for New Brunswickers living with intellectual disabilities, the emergence of the New Brunswick Association for Community Living brought with it more progressive thinking, all of which resulted in a broader range of possibilities. More than half a century later, NBACL still prides itself on its flexible approach to providing support, as their goal remains to empower people like the Cormier Northrups so that they can, in turn, provide what's best for their families.

"Because of this Independent Facilitation Program," Cormier Northrup explains, "we were able to secure additional funding that allowed Robert and Lynn to continue living where they were."

In essence, the Independent Facilitation Program is a planning mechanism that helps determine what each individual needs, based on the many factors that shape their lives. Once a support plan is in place, NBACL staff create a funding application designed with the individual in mind.

"Everything is put into place so that the person gets the support that they need."

The Independent Facilitation Program gives people with a disability, along with their parents, family members, and caregivers, a stronger sense of agency by enabling them to choose what's right for their lives.

UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT

Had such a program not existed, Cormier Northrup is certain that Robert and Lynn would be in nursing homes right now, rather than flourishing together where they are. Whereas previous generations would have seen them isolated within an institutional setting, they are instead two adult siblings, both with their own personal hobbies and interests, who happen to share a home.

It's the respect that NBACL extends to people like Robert and Lynn that resonates most with those who know them best. Cormier Northrup has no difficulty recalling what it felt like in the 1980s when segregated classrooms were the norm. Having worked hard since then to help eradicate such practices in New Brunswick, she envisions a future where inclusive and accessible living is extended in equal measures across the province.

While much work remains to be done, Cormier Northrup nevertheless sees the steady movement towards a more inclusive society as being to the benefit of us all.

"We'll become more caring," she says. "And more connected to everyone in the community."

PHOTO CREDITS

A special thanks to the Northrup Cormiers for providing the family pictures included here to help tell their story.

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