What Does it Mean to be an Inclusive Community?

Inclusion is often a buzzword thrown around without understanding what it actually means.

Inclusion is more than a slogan for those living with a disability. Inclusive communities are critical to a functional, rewarding and enjoyable life. 

But what does it mean to create functionally inclusive communities? How can individuals and organizations do this in their everyday interactions? 

It starts first by understanding the history of inclusion in B.C.

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Institutionalization of People with Disabilities

Historically, inclusion was not part of how individuals living with developmental disabilities lived their lives in B.C. Up until 1996, disabled people lived in institutions, segregated from society and daily life. Abuse and neglect were common. 

These days, segregated institutions are closed and people with disabilities live full lives as members of our communities, living and playing together. Inclusion means differences don’t become barriers. 

Barriers in our Communities

While much has improved, barriers still do exist. As a community, we don’t consider how events or community activities can put up barriers for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

Consider that some people with disabilities may have a support person that needs to be accommodated. Some people may communicate in non-traditional ways and require on-site direction or verbal communication. All of these are situations you may encounter. 

These aren’t barriers. Instead, they are opportunities to learn, reflect and to improve how we accommodate all members of society so everyone can have a satisfying experience. 

Improving How We Communicate

Language itself has the potential to be exclusive if not used correctly.

When communicating with a person with developmental disabilities, be sure to focus on the person, not their disability. For example, “Person with disability” puts the person first and disability second. 

Sometimes people tend to assume a person with a disability is an inspiration because of their experience. It can be patronizing and offensive to assume it’s courageous for someone to get through the day. 

Shift the focus away from disability, to one of accessibility. The terms “suffering from” and “afflicted with” implies pity. Use language that talks about experience, or developed, rather than negative terms. 

How You Can Help

Inclusive communities require all of us to play a role. Beyond the language we use creating accessible places for people with disabilities, there are other ways to help.

Organizations like Community Ventures Society (CVS) exist to help foster inclusion and integrate people with communities in the Tri-Cities and throughout the lower mainland. 

Their respite care program gives family’s with a break from continuous care of their child by having a child visit with a caregiver. Respite care providers are needed and is a great way give back to the community and earn some extra money. Consider applying today. 

As a nonprofit organization, (CVS) is dependent on outside funding to function. A donation can go a long way to support their critical inclusivity work in the community.

Finally, you can also support Community Ventures Society and people with disabilities by visiting one of their social enterprise programs like DisDaBomb

The business was gifted to CVS in 2017 and employs people with disabilities, giving the employment skills and confidence to interact with the community. Other social enterprises run by CVS include dog walking, lawn care and bin cleaning.

Improving inclusion for people with disabilities across the Tri-Cities is only possible when each of us commits to action, in our lives, businesses and communities. Consider supporting Community Ventures Society and other inclusivity organizations today. 

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