Connections with other people improve well-being, happiness, and positive health outcomes. A person’s quality of life is greatly impacted by friendships, relationships and community belonging. Relationships lead to community inclusion, because people make friends where they live and work. People get involved in the community when invited by friends and family, they get jobs through people they know.
Lack of relationships and community inclusion is directly connected to isolation and loneliness. A strong predictor of well-being for people with I/DD is the number of unpaid people in their lives (natural supports). One-third of individuals with I/DD report that they do not have any friends (outside of paid staff or family). Meaning they lack the supports that provide connections and experiences that can reduce loneliness.
Including people with disabilities in the community requires intentional practices and policies that identify and remove physical, communication and attitudinal barriers. For a community to be inclusive it needs to include:
- Individuals getting fair treatment from others.
- Making products, communications and physical environments accessible for as many people as possible.
- Modified items, procedures or systems to allow a person with a disability to use them to the maximum extent possible.
- Eliminating stigmas and stereotypes of individuals with I/DD.