Hi, my name is Shelley De Coste and I live in Kelowna, BC.  I’m a Self Advocate Liaison for Pathways Association.  Self Advocacy is about speaking up for yourself and being more involved in daily decision making.  I run Self Advocacy meetings where we talk about rights and responsibilities.  I teach people with diverse abilities to take charge of their life and their supports. Support staff are there to help us do what we want, not the other way around.

I’ve also just become an Employment Trainer.  Inclusive employment means that businesses are thinking outside the box and willing to take a chance to hire someone with diverse abilities. It’s about a paid position in a regular business setting working alongside other employees.

As a trainer I talk to both employers and employment programs about hiring and supporting people with diverse abilities to find and keep jobs.  I have tools to teach support workers and job coaches how to think outside the box and support people to be as independent as possible.    I am teaching with lived experience.  I know what tools help and what tools don’t help.  I know what kind of struggles people have.  I’ve figured out different ways that work for me that I can share.  For example, I know how to make things into plain, simple language.  I try to take the fear away from employers. I keep telling people that if you hire someone you are not alone.  You can always go back and ask for support from the employment agencies.  The communication between the employee, the employer and the support should always be on-going.

In June I had the opportunity to present at the Canadian Association for Supported Employment.  I was nervous because I wasn’t talking to just local people that I know. There were people there from all over the country.  There were people there that can make a difference in their community because they are leaders like managers and government staff.

My next audience is employment agency staff.  This is my dream presentation.  I get to talk to the staff helping people with diverse abilities on the job.  I want to tell agency staff how important their job is because they will be helping people to get off the system and be more involved with community.  We want a meaningful life just like everyone else.  I want to be able to open my fridge mid month and know there will still be food left.

I know what it’s like not to have a job.  It’s depressing.  I want my audience to know that people with diverse abilities don’t want to be a burden to society.  We want to contribute.  I want to show young people there is hope and they don’t have to always rely the system.   We should all take the time to learn new things.  If something doesn’t work, try again- even if you have to come back to it in a week. There is always another way to do something.  I want people to have different ways of thinking.  Nothing is just black and white.  There is always another way.

I look forward to presenting to you one day soon.  To find out more visit http://selfadvocatenet.com/testimonials/shelley-de-coste/