Reflecting on 20 Years of Creating a Kinder World for People with Disabilities: A Q&A with Board Chair, Ted Kuntz

Ted Kuntz

Ted is a parent, author, and a retired psychotherapist. Ted has been involved in the disability movement for more than 30 years. Ted and his family became one of PLAN’s youngest Lifetime Members when they joined PLAN in the 1990s. Over the years, Ted has been an active member of Plan Institute and PLAN, facilitating numerous workshops and retreats and making a regular contribution to PLAN’s newsletter. Ted is the author of ‘Peace Begins With Me’, and ‘Making Peace With the Future’. Ted is the current Chair of the Plan Institute Board and past Board Chair of PLAN.

  

Preface:

PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network) is non-profit organization founded in 1989 to help families secure the future for loved ones with disabilities. The origins of PLAN began when a group of parents met informally to discuss concerns they had about the future of their children who had disabilities. After 10 years of working to improve the lives of people living with disabilities, it became apparent that additional work needed to be done in order to propel the messages and ideals of PLAN into the greater community – thus, Plan Institute was born. Since 1999, Plan Institute has been working to take the values, concepts and practices used by our families and share them with other groups and the community at large.


Q&A with Ted Kuntz:

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to become involved with PLAN, Plan Institute and helping people with disabilities live a good life?

I became involved with PLAN in the early 1990s. I was captured by the question of – ‘Who will take care of my son after I am no longer able to?’ I was also intrigued by the idea of family leadership and the honouring of family wisdom. This leadership and wisdom was clearly evident in the founding families of PLAN – Jack Collins, Chuck Walker, Arthur Mudry, Joan Lawrence among others. I wanted to learn from them and be like them.

 

What sparked the initial idea of Plan Institute? Can you tell us a little bit about your involvement in the creation of Plan Institute and how it came to be? 

Plan Institute was created out of the recognition that the PLAN experience was revealing valuable wisdom and that we had the potential and the responsibility to assist more families than simply those in close proximity to our Vancouver organization. A decision was made to create a national organization that was committed to research and the dissemination of information, and that our target audience was families across Canada and around the world.

 

What is your favorite memory from your time with PI?
Plan Institute was very effective in attracting and inviting ideas and initiating dialogues that were intriguing, enriching and effective in not only impacting families, but also funders, governments, and thought leaders. My favourite memories are the numerous occasions of sitting in a room with individuals of diverse backgrounds and experiences and being captured and stimulated by our shared commitment to creating a kinder and gentler world where everyone belongs – hence Plan Institute’s tagline, ‘for Caring Citizenship’. I would come away from gatherings as ‘Thinking Like a Movement’, ‘Family Leadership’ and the ‘Philia’ dialogues filled with ideas, new relationships, and hope.

 

What do you believe is the biggest impact PI has had on the community or the people we serve?

One impact of PI is the rich collaboration that has been nurtured and strengthened between families, government agencies, and service providers. Co-founders, Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack and others assisted us in breaking down barriers, transcending silos, and seeing that we are partners in this process. And while we might have different needs and different demands, we also share a common goal.

One of my fondest memories is when a meeting was scheduled between family members and members of the BC government, including cabinet ministers and bureaucrats. The agenda for the meeting was to inform the government on the things they were doing well. After sharing our feedback, the minister hosting the meeting seemed confused and asked – “OK. So why did you really come?” We assured the minister that our only agenda was to provide the government with feedback on what was working. We told them that we assumed they already knew what wasn’t working, but they may not be getting clear feedback on what is working. This exchange changed our relationship with government from one that was often adversarial, to one where we saw each other as collaborators with a shared commitment.

 

What are your hopes and dreams for Plan Institute – what do you hope to see Plan Institute accomplish in the next 20 years?

I know that we can create an even more caring and compassionate society. We know that most of the care that is provided to vulnerable individuals is informal, unpaid care. I believe we can get better at recognizing and supporting this valuable resource.

There is also the serious matter of poverty in the disability community. Most individuals with a disability are living below the poverty line. This is unacceptable. Plan Institute can help galvanize a commitment to lifting this segment of society out of systemic poverty.

We know that relationships are key to a good life. Research informs us that what keeps people safe is the number of relationships we have. The more relationships, the safer we are. The fewer relationships, the more vulnerable we are. I believe more effort and ideas are needed to foster community building.

We recognize the importance of housing for all people. Just as important as housing is community. I believe we can learn from organizations as L’Arche who have been intentionally building community in Canada for 50 years. Plan Insitute can help seed and spread these ideas.

We also know that isolation and loneliness is not just the challenge of individuals with a disability. It is a challenge being faced by large segments of our society today. Recent studies have revealed that isolation and loneliness is the greatest disabling condition. I believe Plan Institute has a valuable role to play in addressing isolation and loneliness. The poverty that is being experienced is not just financial poverty. It is also the poverty of connection, belonging and meaning.

 


Thank you to Ted Kuntz for taking the time to speak with us and for all of his dedicated, inspiring work within the disability movement for the past 30 years.

If you have a story you wish to share with us as part of our 20th Anniversary Celebrations, please contact our Communications Manager at kunwin@planinstitute.ca