A community is composed of a group of people who are living and working together despite the individual differences they may have. Over the years, communities, government, and service agencies have worked together in order to increase efforts to help integrate special needs individuals into the community.
In a report by The Equality and Human Rights Commission, the challenges of being a special needs individual are aplenty. Many still struggle with living independently while having to deal with opportunities on education and employment, as well as access to transport, health services, and housing.
How can an educated and inclusive community inspire and influence individuals with special needs? In other words, what can you do in order to be a responsible and empathetic member of society?
The term “community” acknowledges and embraces the importance of each individual, without any form of discrimination. Communities exist because it is what brings people together in order to advocate and support each other should threats arise. As human beings, we need a sense of belonging and this is what allows us to form and build relationships.
What is the role of the community for special needs individuals?
The role of the community towards individuals with special needs is to give them a sense of belonging into their town or city. It is to create a safe space for them with pure intent and understanding. A community’s role is to empathize and to integrate these individuals into the safe folds of society. Because of this, people have been made aware of the importance of welcoming and making accommodations for people of all ability levels.
At organizations, such as Gemiini, Special Bridge, and Able Here, people assist these individuals with special needs in accessing services such as banks, grocery stores, and senior service centers. These organizations also work tirelessly to promote active involvement and increased independence among individuals with special needs. It is not an easy task, but it is an important role that these organizations must fill. The success of these organizations would all depend on the cooperation and dedication of the members of the community
The idea of these organizations is to give these individuals a sense of belonging and to be able to find a haven where they can safely voice out their concerns and fears.
Helping individuals with special needs should become part of everyday life and should be incorporated into your daily routine. For example, when you see a special needs individual being assisted by one of the staff in a grocery store as they pay for their groceries, the best thing you can do is to wait patiently in order to allow the staff to assist them effectively and attend to whatever needs they may have.
How can Society become more inclusive towards special needs individuals?
1. By recognizing them as a valued consumer
Society has come a long way in recognizing the role of special needs individuals as both target markets and consumers. Kristin Duquette, a One Young World Ambassador said that many special needs individuals still find themselves to be the minority and most underrepresented when it comes to marketing products. These consumer segments can offer significant purchasing power. Also, the fact that we are slowly seeing models like Madeline Stuart, should become part of the norm.
2. Give them ample opportunities for employment
One of the challenges of being an individual with special needs is that there is still a lack of opportunities for both employment and education. In a report with CNN, people with disabilities still get left behind in terms of the workforce with the data showing that they make $9,000 less a year than non-disabled workers. According to the report, many of these individuals are still being refused a job or even denied a final interview. When it comes right down to it, these differences should be seen as assets and not a liability.
3. Promote the need for social inclusion in schools
Schools have to integrate into their students a cultural consciousness on how they should treat individuals with special needs. Students need to be taught how to show compassion and empathy for their peers, and that their differences should be celebrated and not feared or mocked. These values, when learned at a young age may just result in less discrimination and may give rise to social inclusion. When you teach people how to be compassionate, and to not condemn, you are already promoting a progressive society.
4. Include more actors with disabilities in mainstream media
Hollywood has to include more people with disabilities in their films and TV shows. This means real people with disabilities playing roles of people with disabilities. This gives one a feeling of inclusion and representation. It shows society as finally accepting disabilities as a human condition and not as a flaw or an imperfection.
The need for change will always be present in every individual. If one does not fight for change, there never will be change. As long as there is a sense of community, the norms of society will soon change for the better.