When you know better, you do better. ~Maya Angelou
Most of us strive to feel included in this world. We socialize with co-workers, and we feel connected through our work. We join a faith community and feel connected by our heritage and/or by our spiritual beliefs and spiritual journey. We live in a neighborhood where our neighbors become our friends. We keep in touch with old college friends or make new ones through new educational opportunities or by volunteering or joining clubs.
But for people with disabilities and their families, these opportunities often aren’t accessible. Employers usually don’t hire people with cognitive or developmental disabilities because the employers aren’t familiar with the disability, and often people with disabilities aren’t trained in the necessary social skills to be hired. Faith communities may say they are inclusive, but they don’t realize that by the very act of not reaching out to the disability communities, or by not teaching their staff and congregants how to be inclusive that many families sense they are not welcome. Even exercise groups or other community gatherings may discourage those who are different from joining them. So people with disabilities often attend separate activities and often are not involved in faith communities. They are often lonely, and they often don’t work. Their parents may feel isolated as well.
This is where Inclusion Connections come in. We coach families on how their children and adult children and their families can become more included through their schools, work and neighborhoods and we help overwhelmed families stay organized. We create innovative businesses to train adults with disabilities, and we coach those wanting to start those businesses. We schedule speakers and create events that increase awareness around inclusive practices. We also counsel schools, employers, faith communjties and others about ways to make their organizations more inclusive.