by Leanne and Dale Froese
We are Dale and Leanne Froese from Kelowna, BC. We met in 1995 at a Karaoke party. Dale kept singing a country love song, “Love remains to me,” over and over. He played hard to get. Finally, we went on a date and then we got engaged. We’ve been married for 21 years now. It’s great being married. We do have our arguments, but don’t we all?
We rent a suite from Dale’s parents in a condo complex near the recreation center. We both have jobs at Starbucks. It’s been 10 years for both of us working there. We work at different locations though because as Dale says, “I live with my wife and I’m married, but I won’t work with my wife!”
We have followed a path to independence. To us this means making our own decisions and having choices. Independence is about the freedom to make day-to-day decisions, like what movie to go to or who to hang out with.
Before I married Dale, I was part of a project that helped me learn cooking and banking skills. It’s ok to get support where its needed, like budgeting our money.
Independence is more about equality and being an equal part of our community. Everyone should have those opportunities no matter how much support they need. For us, love is important to have between us because without love and supporting each other it would be hard.
We are both leaders in the self advocacy community. We work with the Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship (cic.arts.ubc.ca) where they do research and projects with people who have diverse abilities to help make life better. We advise on how to make information plain language to make sure everyone understands.
We are also part of the Lower Mainland Down Syndrome Society (lmdss.com). We mentor young kids who have Down Syndrome.
We want kids and their families to know how great life is and that with the right support a path to independence is possible. We help others look forward to the future for their kids and know they can have a brighter life.
When we were born in the ‘60s and ‘70s there were institutions and people didn’t have these choices. Life is much better today because of the self advocacy movement, our allies and supporters. Now we have a voice.
It’s important for people with diverse abilities to remember we have the right to be independent and to do what we want and that no one should hold us back. It’s our choice and our decisions. We have the right to a bright and happy future.
Not everyone knows yet that they have the right to independence. We have to keep sharing and inspiring others. We hope our story does that.