The role of a community in empowering disabled individuals: collaborating and creating platforms

How can an educated community inspire and influence a disabled individual? What are the major responsibilities of the community and how does that have an impact on the younger generation? In other words, how can one be a responsible and an empathetic community member?

The term ‘community’ embodies the importance of each and every member including the disabled individuals as we have witnessed that the existence of a community can allow greater change amongst the people coming from any race, culture, background and religion. In order to bring light to the subject, we must be able to comprehend the dynamics of the terminology; Community. It exists due to the basic fundamentals and the mutual understanding of people including norms, religion, identity and values. 
As Albert Schweitzer, a French-German theologian quoted: 
“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” Fundamentally, it is our vital duty to allow others to find comfort, show affection and serve every individual with or without special needs. Moreover, a positive approach within the community inherits a productive and drastic phenomenon which will therefore be engraved for the coming generations.

The role of a community towards the disabled individual can be easily elaborated if we emphasize on creating friendly relationships with pure intent and understanding. First of all — the importance of forming a bond has hence permitted the individuals to collaborate and empathize with the disabled individuals which thus automatically creates a sense of worth and belonging. In contrast, a distressed disabled individual won’t be able to be productive if he/she is left alone so therefore, building a connectivity bridge will lead to finding out the similarities and the differences of each and every individual within the community. Community building and user-first design has thus been a pivotal focus of design at ARISE Impact.

Feedback from disabled communities such as this classroom full of students at the SMART Center in Chandigarh, is essential to ARISE Impact’s work.

Communities can be formed both virtually and non-virtually. A disabled individual can have access to an online community where he/she feels comfortable in finding their voice and the ability to spread their knowledge across the globe. There are plenty of platforms on the internet that provides great virtual services for the disabled individuals. Some of these include: DisabledUnited, Special Bridge, Able Here, Disabilities-R-Us, to name a few. The common ideology of all these platforms is to provide a sense of belonging for the disabled individuals where they can share their real life experiences online in a safe, comforting and friendly environment. Furthermore, thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, more individuals dealing with a disability have become part of communities as it provides direct contact with the peers and raising their voices for various social causes such as in communities like Disability Support Group and Diversability. ARISE Impact utilizes virtual platforms to give disabled users easier access to learning resources. Virtual platforms give the ARISE Impact team more opportunities and channels to expand their reach in to the disabled community. The question that arises is how can a disabled individual feel involved within the “real”/ “non-virtual” community and address their issues openly?

According to the study — “FRIENDS Connecting people with disabilities and community members” by Angela Novak Amado, Ph.D. (University of Minnesota) the necessary beliefs for success include: (within the community)
“1. Valuing and personal appreciation of the individual with disabilities: Do you value and appreciate this individual? Do you think they have a lot to offer? Do you think they would be a good friend? If you don’t value and appreciate the person, you are probably not the person to assist them to have community relationships.

2. Faith and trust in community members: Do you believe you can find community members who would be interested in getting to know this person? It won’t necessarily be everyone in your community, but do you believe you can find at least ONE person — no matter how small your town is?

3. Belief in the importance of community building for everyone: Do you believe that doing this work is important for everyone —

  • Staff
  • The person who receives services
  • The community members ”

Additionally, the members of a community should have awareness programs dealing with centers based for both parents and the disabled individual to have the right resources and tools for success. For instance, organizing events within the community and as well as in schools which focuses on raising awareness through sports event, arts competitions, creativity day, gardening day and etc. These events will allow the disabled individuals to have a sense of belonging and above all, explore their interests. Therefore, everything starts from home, including raising a younger generation that can empathize and demonstrate the significance of respecting individuals dealing with any kind of disability. Educating the younger generation with the idea that a disabled individual is no less and more capable in competing against any odds. Correct information and mindfulness creates a positive, dignified and a compassionate community.

“Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It’s important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It’s the way in which we ourselves grow and develop.”
quotes Dorothy Height, an American administrator and educator. It is pretty clear that one keeps evolving and with time, we as a community should become sincere with providing services and spreading awareness on the rightful role of each member towards the disabled individual.

One of the major step towards a collaborative community is to be provided with trained teachers taking the responsibility of engaging the disabled individuals. The importance of a trained teacher is substantial in an inclusive education and the necessity of achieving better results by filling the space for the disabled individual with knowledge and a sense of recognition. The right training of the teachers should not be overlooked by the authorities but instead encourage the trainee/trainers to participate in professional development courses. Hence, teachers are the pioneers of a community in building a common ground for the individuals facing any disability. Thus, with their training, the disabled individuals can succeed and shine in any desired platform.

A positivity-inducing community, whether virtual or non-virtual, can help in bettering the lives of a disabled individual. It is our responsibility as community members to be considerate and remain open-minded. By forming smaller sub communities to celebrating events; the motive needs to be entitled with understanding and betterment of the lives of the disabled individuals.

Reference links: