Module 5- Community Inclusion

  1. What is Community Inclusion?
    1. Why should I promote Community Inclusion?
    2. Key Principles of Community-Based Inclusion
  2. Overcoming Barriers Exercises
  3. Self-Advocacy, Self-Determination and Inclusion
  4. How Residential Director Can Support Inclusion
    1. Community Education
    2. Sports and Recreation

What is Community Inclusion?

Community Inclusion is the opportunity to live in the community and be valued for one's uniqueness and abilities, like everyone else. Community inclusion should result in community presence and participation of people with disabilities like that of all others without a disability label.

Community inclusion encompasses:

  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Health Status
  • Leisure/Recreation
  • Spirituality/Religion
  • Citizenship and Civic Engagement
  • Valued Social Roles (e.g., marriage, parenting)
  • Peer Support
  • Self-Determination

Why should I promote Community Inclusion?

Community Inclusion is the right of all people. Below are some of the legal and policy foundations for community inclusion:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) - Title II: requires governments to give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all programs, services, and activities
  • Department of Justice "Inclusion Regulation": services, programs, and activities must be delivered in a way that fully enables individuals with disabilities to interact with nondisabled people
  • Supreme Court Olmstead decision (1999): unnecessary institutionalization is a form of discrimination prohibited by the ADA
  • Bush Executive Order (2001): requires federal agencies to work with states to ensure community inclusion

Definition of Inclusion

  • Presence - participating in all settings where people without disabilities are present, including classrooms, board rooms, businesses, neighborhoods, and community events.
  • Choice - having multiple experiences to draw from, selecting and engaging in activities as desired, choosing who will participate with you.
  • Competence - being recognized for strengths, contributing, having opportunities to learn more.
  • Respect and Valued Roles - being a person--as well as a person with a disability, being valued by others, not being out of the norm or as a "curiosity."
  • Participation - engaging with others, having a wide variety of relationships being known and knowing others, being part of the event--not just an observer.
  • Belonging - a very strong feeling that a person feels when they are valued by others, when others call just to talk or invite him or her to go to a party or "hang out" at the mall.

Key Principles of Community-Based Inclusion

Community-based inclusion instruction is individualized and focuses on those specific skills needed and wanted by the individual for a desired life. The instruction is provided in a variety of actual settings where individuals want to be competent or will need to utilize life skills. Instruction focuses on participation in functional activities rather than just performing an isolated skill. Varied instruction combined with supports natural to a setting are used to help individuals generalize skills. Instruction takes place at the time of day at which the task is usually performed. Whenever possible, instruction comes from the natural environment from those with the skills and experience who are in the setting where the skills will be utilized.

Some questions to ask about this might be:

  • What are the interests of the individual?
  • What are the individual's gifts?
  • What goals and dreams does the person have regarding community life?
  • What are the life priorities for the next few years?
  • What community places does the individual desire to access?
  • What skills will the individual need to function successfully in his or her desired lifestyle?
  • What is the support needs of the individual?
  • What are the available resources in the community?
  • Which resources will have led them to meeting the needs of the individual?

Community inclusion is a success when individuals have relationships with people who are not paid to spend time with them. Individuals have opportunities to experience a variety of social roles that include friendships, contributing to the community and gaining new skills. They have opportunities and resources to do and accomplish things that are important to them as well as experience a sense of belonging.

There are many benefits of inclusion to the individual, including improved feelings of well-being and self-esteem. Individuals have access to resources and activities not available otherwise. They have expanded life experiences and participate in activities in different settings. Individuals engage with others, have friendships and relationships they want. They have opportunities to do things they want to do with the people most important to them. Individuals are encouraged to learn new skills and activities to gain the friendships and relationships.

Barriers to Inclusion

The principal barrier to the participation of individuals with intellectual disabilities in community activities and organizations is to a large extent a problem of attitude.

Common attitudinal barriers that are assumed or faced when moving to real community inclusion opportunities include:

  • The "community" will not welcome people with disabilities. They are fearful of them and think they have too many "problems" or needs to "fit in."
  • People Will Get Hurt! The person might get hurt in the process (be rejected, be taken advantage of, get lost, etc.)
  • What Is community anyway? What does "community" really mean in this fast-paced society?
  • Whose job is it? It is a lot of work, and whose job is it anyway?
  • No resources! There are not enough resources, one-on-one staff, transportation, etc., to get and keep people connected in the community. So why try?
  • What about liability? Who is liable if something happens, like if the person gets hurt while participating in a community activity?

Individual Barriers to Full Community Inclusion

Some individuals at your agency may have limited communication and mobility challenges. They may be unable to control their own movements. This may be true even to the point of being unable to move away from painful or unpleasant sounds, smells, sights, or other sensations. Overcoming people's barriers to inclusion includes understanding and being able to describe and promote the person's gifts and strengths. These gifts and strengths can then be matched to needs of the community. This will make the process of inclusion easier.

Overcoming Barriers Exercises

Submitted by Krescene Beck, Illinois Voices and New Visions

Review the following problem-solving model. It is a good tool to help you look for resources that match the interests, gifts, and talents of self-advocates. It can also be used to identify barriers to community inclusion and to develop a plan for minimizing these barriers.

  • Identify the gifts, talents and dreams of the self-advocate. Be specific.
  • Identify the barrier(s). Write down what you see as the barrier(s). Be specific.
  • Think of solutions. List all the possibilities that could/would solve the identified barrier(s).
  • Evaluate the options: Look at all the options and start evaluating the ones that would be the most practical for removing the barrier(s). Then prioritize the solutions. Eliminate the ones that are not possible and review the final 2 or 3 solutions on the list. Discuss these as a group and then chose one possible solution to begin.
  • Create a plan. Review the group's chosen solution and then develop a plan or a way to remove the barrier. Figure out who will do what and when and in what order to solve the problem. This is called an Action Plan.
  • Implement the Plan. This is the action part of the process. Follow the steps you have outlined in your action plan and try to remove the barrier. Ask yourself if the barrier has been removed. If your answer is "yes," then you are done. If it is "no," then look at what happened when you implemented your action plan.
  • Assess the outcome. Did the Action Plan work? Why or why not? What about the quality of the outcomes? Is the self-advocate satisfied with the outcome? Unhappy? Excited? What would have to change to remove the barrier? Does another solution from the list need to be selected to try to remove the barrier?
  • Modify the Plan as needed. Finally, change your Action Plan as needed to get closer to a solution. You may need to go back to the evaluating step, review another potential solution, and work your way through removing the barrier until an outcome is reached that satisfies the self advocate and support people.

Self-Advocacy, Self-Determination and Inclusion

To better understand the benefits and possible roadblocks to promoting self-determination and inclusion for the people you support, let's examine the concepts, and discuss how to be prepared to overcome any barriers that stand in the way of accomplishing these goals:

Definition of Self-Advocacy : A "self-advocate" is a person with an intellectual disability who is speaking out for his or her own rights or for the rights of all people with intellectual disabilities.

The national self-advocacy organization, Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), has defined self-advocacy as the following: "[It] is about independent groups of people with disabilities working together or justice by helping each other take charge of our lives and fight discrimination. It teaches us how to make decisions and choices that affect our lives, so we can be more independent. It also teaches us about our rights,  but along with learning about our rights we learn responsibilities. The way we learn about advocating for ourselves is by supporting each other and helping each other gain confidence in ourselves so we can speak out for what we believe in."

What is Self-Determination? Self-determination can be defined as people having the degree of control, they desire over those aspects of life that are important to them.

How can self-determination be achieved?

Self-Determination activities include any activities that result in individuals with intellectual disabilities, with appropriate assistance, having:

  • The ability and opportunity to communicate and make personal decisions;
  • The ability and opportunity to communicate choices and exercise control over types of service, supports and other assistance
  • The authority to control resources to obtain needed services and supports
  • Opportunities to participate in, and contribute to, their communities
  • Support, including financial support, to advocate for themselves and others, to develop leadership skills through training and self-advocacy; and to participate in the development in public policies that affect people with intellectual disabilities.

Sometimes an individual may need training supports in:

  • How to make appropriate decisions 
  • How to make appropriate choices
  • Assistance in noticing opportunities to make personal choices
  • Exposure to self-determined role models, and positive reinforcement for taking control of personal decisions

How Residential Director Can Support Inclusion

Residential Director are tasked with helping individuals and staff achieve the level of inclusion desired. RD's can accomplish this task by:

  • Offering choices
  • Providing training to develop the person's skills for future inclusionary activities.
  • Supporting individuals participation at actual community and social events. As much as possible, try to promote individual participation in community activities rather than as part of a group. People may have trouble making new friends and being looked at as an individual if they arrive in a group.
  • Researching information about community resources and sharing this information with individuals served.
  • Helping individuals learn social skills and other skills as needed.
  • Analyzing inclusion barriers and helping the person overcome these barriers.
  • Using a respectful tone of voice and friendly words when addressing individuals in public.
  • Not speaking for or about the person. Problem behaviors should be dealt with as discretely as possible. 
  • Trying to help people fit in with others by assisting them in their dressing, grooming and communication skills.
  • Making sure the individual has the training and skills necessary to become independent. For instance, training on how to use the bus can pay off in a lifetime of inclusion and freedom from relying on staff for every transportation need.
  • Being prepared to advocate for and educate others about the benefits of inclusion.
  • Understanding when to get involved and when to stay out of individuals relationships. Instead of sheltering people from potential dangers by isolating them, support staff should help individuals manage risks in real and sometimes complex situations.
  • Teaching daily living, vocational, and educational skills in natural settings in a functional and empowering way.
  • Networking to find contacts and allies in the community who may have information about social or vocational opportunities.
  • Developing strategies to minimize individuals risks and barriers and help the individual understand the importance of making good choices that will reduce such risk.
  • Ask individuals to go with you to any community group speaking engagements you may present at. Individuals can explain what his/her life was like before coming to the community program they participate in and how the program has impacted his/her life.
  • Allow individuals to order their own food, etc. when in public.
  • Ensure that the individuals have access to opportunities and education to facilitate building and maintaining relationships.
  • Provide information about human, legal, civil rights and other resources and assist individuals to use information for self-advocacy and decision making about living, working, and social relationships.
  • Determining the individuals interests. Helping them with the supports needed for their desirable future. Then moving to support the most important skills to learn to achieve their dream.
  • Incorporating training needed in real life events. Training should not be done as a replacement to real life experience.
  • Finding places where people can be supported as they are where other community members take the direct role in skill training.
  • Providing enough support so that the individual has a chance to succeed. Competence comes form trying and often failing and trying but planning for mistakes to be made.  It's all part of learning.
  • Providing daily opportunities to communicate with others for needed supports and choices to be made.

Community Education

One important way to facilitate community inclusion is to educate the community about your program. RD's can volunteer to speak at local churches, civic groups, Kiwanis, Elks, Chamber of Commerce, hospitals, federal, state and local agencies to discuss your agencies mission, vision and values and how they can help individuals achieve the desired level of community inclusion. RD's should plan to educate the community regarding community inclusions. There are various ways this can be accomplished, including using the internet, newsletters, fundraisers, open houses, appreciation night, annual meetings, etc. RD's should use any opportunity to interact with the community to educate them on the needs of people with ID/D and attempt to encourage participation in the agency's mission, vision and values.

Sports and Recreation

Recreation programs have a few characteristics that make them ideal places for individuals with disabilities to experience social inclusion and friendship building. Recreational pursuits not only provide opportunities for meaningful relaxation and enjoyment, they also promote social involvement and self-determination.

In every community there is a wide range of informal and formal opportunities for people with disabilities to build relationships with others through shared recreation activities. Here are some of the places where such opportunities can be found, and relationships nurtured:

  • Neighborhood yards, play areas, and parks
  • Community education and recreation programs for youth and adults
  • Community sports leagues
  • Faith communities
  • Interest clubs (such as gardening, bridge, birding, book, and dancing clubs)
  • Youth organizations (such as Scouting, Campfire, 4-H, church youth groups)*
  • Recreation and fitness center activities and programs
  • Cultural and ethnic centers
  • Community arts and theatre organizations
  • School carnivals and family nights*
  • Open gym and swim times for the community at local schools and colleges
  • Extracurricular activities in K-12 schools*
  • Early childhood play groups*
  • Community volunteer organizations
  • Youth drop-in centers
  • Neighborhood coffeehouses and bars
  • Workplace sports teams and informal interest groups
  • Nature centers
  • Travel/tour groups
  • As an RD, be sure the activities are appropriate for the age and interest of the individuals.