Inclusion of people with disabilities in everyday activities is important for everyone, not just the person with the IDD. Community inclusion is the opportunity to live and exist as a contributing member of the community while being valued for one’s abilities and uniqueness, regardless of disability. The goal of community inclusion is the participation of people with IDDs across a range of areas, including employment, housing, education and more. One important aspect that deserves more attention is community inclusion, not work.
Community-based services can support people with disabilities to access community activities in settings where most people do not have disabilities, most states have programs that can help. With an aide, a family member or caregiver the individual can partake in general community participation, volunteer experiences, or using community recreation and leisure resources. Individuals should seek out activities that interest them in the hopes of building relationships within the “typical” community engaging in activities of their choice.
I met a young man years ago who has autism and other challenges and is well known throughout our community. He is a huge fan of all our town’s sports teams. There is never a game, play, graduation, or event that he is not at. He wanted to be involved and to have friends, so he was determined to make it happen. He walks to each event, introduces himself to anyone he does not know and does his best to make friends all the while supporting the community. He is a lucky guy, at 27, he is loved by and included by all in town. Just by being himself, he is unknowingly breaking down barriers for others with IDD in our community. He is in the minority, as he, with all his challenges and impairments, can put himself out there without anyone helping him. Others are not as lucky. Many adults with IDD need a caregiver, friend, or family member to help facilitate the inclusion.
The importance of inclusion cannot be overstated, it can be a life changer for the IDD individual as well as for the lucky ones who embrace this community.