Commentary: The Welcoming Inclusion Network

Commentary: The Welcoming Inclusion Network

Making Fairfax County accessible to all abilities.

One of Fairfax County’s greatest strengths is in being a home to over a million people from all walks of life. While we have made great strides in bringing the community together, adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities can find it very challenging to participate fully in community life. After they leave school or home, many rely on employment or day services to integrate them into society and allow them to contribute by working or through other activities. This population is growing and deserves a seat at the table. Current services are helpful, but there remains a great deal of work if we want a truly inclusive society.

The Fairfax Falls Church Community Services Board established the Welcoming Inclusion Network (WIN) collaborative to address these pressing issues and devise long-term solutions to create an environment where everyone is valued.

I have the honor of chairing WIN, but the real work is done by my operations co-chair Lori Stillman, who is a former CSB official and parent. Joining us on the steering committee are a number of experts who have a great range of experiences with developmental and intellectual disability services. WIN stakeholders include county staff, parents of those with disabilities, special needs services providers, self-advocates, and employers. Together we work to achieve WIN’s four key goals:

  • NETWORK: Build opportunities for increased information and resource sharing

  • DESIGN: Ensure service equity and efficiency through community-designed services

  • EMPLOYMENT: Boost employment opportunities through existing and new service models

  • INCLUSION: Identify and address other challenges to full community inclusion

WIN stakeholders meet regularly at the Fairfax County Government Center for presentations and working sessions. Each meeting has a new topic of discussion and breakout sessions to delve deeper into the obstacles for inclusivity and to find effective solutions. The next WIN meeting is on July 9 from 6:30 – 8 p.m. and will be in the Fairfax County Government Center. Anyone interested in learning more about day and employment services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities is welcome to attend.

It is up to all of us in the end to make the world a more accessible place for those of us with different abilities. I hope you will join me in supporting this important cause and the hardworking stakeholders seeking to make our county a better place for all.