Disability inclusion recognizes the relationship between how people engage in the community and making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires. Having a disability in no way lessens anyone's right to participate in all aspects of society. People with disabilities are often limited in partaking due to discrimination, old-fashioned attitudes, or failure to remove societal and institutional barriers. No matter what someone's abilities or differences may be, every person deserves respect and equality; and each of us can help make that happen. Here are five simple ways to get started:
1. Put people first
Person first language (PFL) is considered the most respectful way to talk about disabilities and differences. You can make a small impact by considering the person before the disability and describing what a person has, not who a person is. PFL uses phrases such as "person with a disability," "individuals with disabilities," and "children with disabilities," as opposed to terms that identify people based solely on their disability.
2. Don't be afraid to ask questions
Inclusivity means asking people with disabilities to share their narratives. It's easy to make assumptions out of concern to avoid initiating an awkward encounter, but we can achieve a better understanding by allowing and encouraging dialogue. If someone is upset because of something you said, a sincere apology can help ask them what they would have preferred you say and why.
3. Volunteer and bring friends along
Lending your time in the service of your local community is a great way to foster inclusivity. Having people with and without disabilities learning and working side-by-side helps everyone appreciate the talents and gifts they bring together. You can learn more at Volunteers of America or search your local area for in-person and virtual opportunities.
4. Offer to help if you see an opportunity
Being inclusive can be as simple as holding the door open for someone in a wheelchair. If you see an opportunity to help, try to assist. Offer to help carry a bag in the grocery store. And if someone says no thanks, they don't need any help, don't be offended—say, "Have a good day!" and go on with yours.
5. Don't fear differences
People who aren't familiar with a person who has a developmental disability may think of a communication exchange as intimidating. People who fear they could do or say something unintentionally disrespectful toward a person with a disability will sometimes default to ignoring that person altogether. Rather than thinking about how you and this person are different, focus on the commonality.
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