Come as you are

Inclusion Center offers a safe space for people with disabilities to gather and be themselves

BRATTLEBORO — Reuben reads through an iPad voice.

The other drop-in centers were too loud and too far away. The noise drove Reuben crazy and his mom, Julie Tamler, told him that he couldn't go all that way just to use his iPad.

So they stopped going.

But Reuben was bored at home. He needed something social to do, something fun, in a place where people would accept him for who he is.

So Julie Tamler started the Inclusion Center, a unique Brattleboro drop-in center catering to the needs of people living with disabilities, last year. Activities and presentations are decided on by the participants themselves, and often are implemented by them, too.

Occasionally, community members are invited to give presentations on their occupation or interests.

Like other drop-in centers, the Inclusion Center is meant to provide a warm place for people who don't have another space to in be during the week. If you are faced with a severe disability, finding a place that fits the bill is not easy.

Tamler is visibly upset explaining how she and her son Reuben must cope. For example, when they go out for a walk, she says, they often have to travel onto the street because garbage cans block the sidewalk and Reuben's wheelchair can't get by.

The Inclusion Center also provides a place for providers from many different service organizations to meet.

Often, personal care assistants are separated from one another. The center not only provides activities, but also community.

One provider mentioned how important it is for his client to be able to present at the Inclusion Center. He leads mediation, and will be at an upcoming conference. Here, he can lead unhindered by anxiety about his disability.

It's one of the few places that Reuben can talk and people will listen, said Tamler.

Activities at the Inclusion Center range from a music video shoot, to serious conversations about what disability means for everyone.

Past presentations have included a visit from the police and fire department, which participants said they found helpful.

The drop in center has two times and locations: Mondays at the Stone Church in Brattleboro and Fridays at St. Michael's Episcopal Church on Putney Road. Both places are accessible to people in wheelchairs.

Tamler says she hopes to expand the dates of the drop-in to the rest of the weekday. About 40 to 50 people attend the center sporadically and would benefit from having additional dates, she said.

A care provider explains how important it is to have a place where you can just be yourself, with no setbacks. She said she was speaking for herself, not only her client, and others agreed.

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