The Importance of Community Connections for People with Disabilities

“Working one-by-one, each of us can assist a community to have a spirit of welcoming.” – Neil Barringham


Regardless of who you are-your gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, political beliefs or disability, nobody can live in isolation segregated- away from the rest of the community—everyone has a certain sense of belonging, their place in the community.

When asked to name the good things in life, most people placed having relationships with others on top of their list. They say that these relationships give their life added meaning, they appreciate the intimacy, joy and safety and know that this comes with the frustration and complexity of real human interaction.

When it comes to people with disabilities, the human service system has treated the creation of relationships with other community members as a very poor second to fulfilling day to day basic care needs of such persons. All too often, those that work within the disability sector have treated the creation of community connections for people with disabilities as an “added extra” as though this is a luxurious item, rather than a necessity to life.

This way of thinking is due to past legacies, where children with disabilities were placed in institutions at a young age, educated in special school-segregated away from other children, “employed” in sheltered workshops or attended day respite services, away from the rest of the community. Our past is one of “otherness”, “differences”, not of “sameness” or unification.

The introduction of the NDIS has played a role of recognising the importance of community connections for people with disabilities, however additional money or resources can not welcome people into the community, only people can welcome people into the community. For relationships to be recognised as a fundamental need, there has to to be major changes in the ways in which society thinks of people with disability.

However, this is not a one way street, not only do people with disabilities need to connect to communities, communities need to connect with people with disabilities. Without community participation of people with disabilities, the life and spirit within the community can not be achieved and therefore the community is on the verge of becoming non-existent and the community is empty-only being a geographical place on a map.

People with disabilities can make positive contributions to the community, but to do they need to make connection within the community. They can have roles which are view positively by the rest of society—volunteer, employee, employer, business owner, home owner, tenant, Lion or Rotarian, entrepreneur, customer, etc. They can join in the rich fabric of their community.

People with disabilities are representative of other groups who live on the fringes of society, challenging communities. Challenges cause conflict and conflict leads to change and change is what people with disabilities inspire.

When society recognises the gains that can be made from enacting values of citizenship and inclusion of all people, the role that people with disabilities have played in the evolution of civilisation will be discovered.

Knowledge is power!

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