Promo 21 and Action Centre print together
by Randy Pinksky
The cold rainy weather on December 6 did not dampen the enthusiasm of Lasalle Action Centre members during a visit to the Promo 21 t-shirt printing company. Located in the Chabanel garment district, Promo 21 trains and hires neurodiverse adults and frequently hosts demonstrations.
The visitors, who have physical disabilities, were excited to print shirts they designed with “I don't need easy, I just need possible” - a quote coined by Hawaiian pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton who lost her left arm in a shark attack.
“Living life without limits” is Action Centre’s mantra, with programs designed to “foster a sense of belonging, self-esteem and increased autonomy” such as music, art, bowling and cooking, with partners like Centre de ressources éducatives et pédagogiques, and the English Montreal School Board’s Adult Education and Vocational Services.
“When they closed the Lethbridge day program, we had to do something,” stated founder Daniel Jarry. The Centre was thus started as a post-physio meeting place in Pointe-St-Charles and then LaSalle, where it had been for the past 23 years. They recently moved to a new location in Saint-Laurent.
The idea for Promo 21 was sparked when founder Martin Gould realized there were few career options for autistic adults. His girlfriend Lydia Mamane’s son, 21-year-old Aaron, had aged out of the school and government-supported programs. “There was nowhere for him to go,” recalled Mamane, now president of the board of directors.
After evaluating various options, Gould modelled the company after a New York printing initiative, and since its launch in 2019, Promo 21 “just exploded.” He described it as a place where adults with special needs can “develop and grow both on a professional and personal level.” Silk screening is ideal for individuals on the spectrum as many work well with a predictable and logical sequence of tasks. The company recognizes the needs and triggers of its employees and adapts accordingly, such as providing noise-canceling headphones or physical accommodation.
The focus is on the unique skills of each worker. “I don’t like to say disabilities; it’s more [about] abilities,”emphasized Mamane. New employee Jean Duvel echoed, “It’s special. It’s a good place to work if you have a particular need.”
Mamane expressed her gratitude to Promo 21 for being an instrumental stepping stone for her son. “Aaron would have never been able to move onwards without the skills learned here,” she said. “He gained a sense of fulfillment and purpose.”
She continued, “[People with special needs] are excellent employees because they have more to prove. They just need the chance.”
For information about Promo 21, visit www.promo21.org. For the Action Centre, visit www.centreaction.org.