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Reflections about Judith SnowMichelle, Judith and Judith

Hearing the news this week that Judith Snow had passed away was almost too hard to take in. It was surreal and it brought deep sadness.  As the week progressed, it also brought opportunity for reflection on Judith’s wonderful life . . . . and some thinking about the impact she made in our own lives, in my life.

Judith was courageous. She was like a beacon that guided us.  One could not help rising up to some challenge in life upon meeting Judith.

Many of us have participated and shared in learning opportunities with Judith – in whatever form that came.  She was well known for her teaching, challenging many around the meaning and reality of inclusion and citizenship, relationships and dreaming.

Judith inspired audiences with her life stories. In recent years she has been most active as a motivational speaker, social inventor, artist and peace activist.

Judith was a pioneer for inclusion and individualized funding.  She worked tirelessly educating and supporting inclusion in schools and in community along with Marsha Forest, Jack Pearpoint, Rose Galati and others in those early years of Integration Action for Inclusion, a provincial organization that still exists today promoting and supporting full inclusion and citizenship. That is about the time I met Judith – the beginning of my best learning and grounding.  The rest is history. . . .

Judith’s role with the Individualized Funding Coalition for Ontario (IFCO) and her significance to individualized funding in Ontario, Canada and around the world was beyond huge. Decades ago, her bold actions and that of the Joshua Committee, enabled Judith to break free from an institutionalized setting and live life with the help of individualized funding.

Judith was the first person to receive ‘individualized’ funding in Ontario enabling her to hire her own support team. This led to a life transforming experience and story that was told all over the country and the world; the story is available in a book called ‘From Behind the Piano’ through Inclusion Press.  It continues to be read by many today. Judith’s story and her activism at the time, along with her circle of support called the Joshua Committee, meant change for many others. It broke down barriers that ultimately resulted in various forms of individualized funding emerging and developing over the years.

The ‘funding’ needed to hire personal assistants was always an important component in Judith’s life but not the only component.  Individualized funding did make it possible for Judith to provide jobs as she hired people as personal assistants enabling her to do what she needed to do – be it work, play, travel, teach, paint or hang out at home  . . . . and the list goes on. But for Judith, life was about much more than the funding.  It was her strong belief in herself and others; her desire to contribute, to share, and to teach; her passion for: inclusion, citizenship and peace, for possibility and dreams and above all relationships . . . . . that resulted in Judith leading an amazingly full life for many decades – a life that touched thousands.

No one in Ontario who uses some form of individualized funding, does so without having some piece of that be a result of Judith Snow’s first efforts in Ontario to receive such funding . . .

For those of you who have family members who benefit from Special Services at Home Funding (SSAH) for children with disabilities;  Enhanced Respite (funding for children who are technologically dependent); Passport funds for adults with developmental disabilities;  ‘Intervener’ funding;  Direct Funding (Self-Managed Attendant Care for Adults)through the Centre for Independent Living (Ministry of Health), and other forms of individualized funding that flow through a government approved transfer payment agency  . . . . you can connect the flexibility this brings into your lives, supporting a family member or living with disability yourself back to Judith Snow.

Not to be forgotten:  Judith contributed greatly to the work of IFCO as co-chair for many years, as an active member of the leadership team during many years of Transformation, as a writer and editor of documents, and more recently as a key resource to the current leadership team. . . . Many members of IFCO will continue to be grateful and appreciative for that involvement and contribution.

Respect for Judith as a person and a professional runs deep. The opportunities many of us have had to be challenged and learn from Judith will always be cherished.  It was always nice to hear about and see her family involved in her adventures over the years. I will never forget the time Judith and I presented at a board meeting of Community Living Ontario about individualized funding and independent facilitation.  Her father was with us at the event and was invited to sit at the table. He actively participated and contributed in the discussions after our presentation. It was a wonderful moment for all of us present – a father so proud of his daughter, a daughter so proud to be there with her father, a friend so blessed to see it.

Judith continued living her life courageously passing the milestone of her 65th birthday, someone who was expected to die more than four decades ago. She became an amazing artist and had a display at the Royal Ontario Museum a couple of years ago.  Individualized funding was part of the reason Judith’s life could be so rich despite the day to day challenges.

Judith was a friend. I will miss her. I so appreciated having met Judith and others at the early stages of my daughter’s life as we as a family explored inclusion and individualized funding – first through SSAH and later other avenues. The importance of connecting with people who have deep seated values and are willing to push the edges is so important. My hope is that many younger families will have opportunities to experience this along their path. Judith is someone who inspired our journey supporting our daughter over the course of Lisa’s entire life. We have been truly blessed.

Judith’s example of true involvement in her own local communities and neighbourhoods – beyond the disability world – strengthened us all to think bigger.  But more than ever, for many of us it is the friendships we have developed with Judith over the years that we will hold dearest in our hearts. . . . Judith we thank you, we will miss you. . . .

Your friend,  Michelle