‘Don’t Shove Us Off Like We’re Rubbish,’ Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities Said About Their Neighborhood

Civic involvement is once again on people’s minds as the federal election approaches. However, not everyone’s demands are met in the political arena – and one of the areas most in need of improvement in local government.

Phillipa Carnemolla, an Associate Professor at The University of Technology Sydney states that they spent a year talking to people with intellectual disabilities about how they see their local communities and the resources provided by local government to learn more about their civic and social involvement experiences.

Their research discovered that there is a significant possibility to incorporate people with intellectual disabilities’ ideas and opinions regarding their local communities. This would make it easier for everyone to participate in civic life.

Participants demanded better transportation alternatives, better-maintained public restrooms, and more pedestrian crossings, among other things.

Many people have said that their focus group was the first time they’d ever been asked about these characteristics of their community.

What They’ve Done:

Their project team includes intellectually disabled core members and academics. They held focus groups in six local government areas (a total of 45 people) across New South Wales and Victoria, in a mix of metropolitan and regional settings.

They asked participants, “What would you change if you were the boss of your local government?” to reflect the forms of advances to local services and places that individuals with intellectual disabilities wish to see.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities are more than able and willing to participate in creating local communities for the better, according to their findings, which were published in the journal, Sustainability. However, they are rarely questioned about their ideas or experiences.

Several essential adjustments, according to their analysis, could boost involvement.

  1. Ensure that information and communication are readily available

We were told by a person with an intellectual disability:

“If you want us to participate, we need to know what things are happening and when […] and not just the disability events.”

This was an all-too-familiar phrase. Many individuals with intellectual disabilities with their local government to provide more comprehensive information about what’s going on in their community, in a variety of formats, and, significantly, how they may participate.

According to one source: 

“If I was the boss of my council […] I would text people to let them know that they can call a council.

2. Provide possibilities for those with disabilities to work

A call for greater job possibilities was one of the most impactful statements they’ve heard in every focus group that was held.

Participants talked about their goals for a job, in local government. They were informed by one person:

“We could work at the front desk and be welcoming.”

Another said:

“I wish I could work but there are not many opportunities.”

One participant phrased it like way:

“If I was the boss of my local council, I would employ people with disability.”

3. Give people a sense of security and respect

Tragically, they’ve heard a lot of stories of people who didn’t feel comfortable in their neighborhood.

Participants also told them about numerous instances in which they were not welcomed or appreciated in public. The following are some quotes from the focus groups:

“I wish people were more friendly to people with intellectual disabilities.”

“If I was the boss at [my council] I would make sure I listened to people. People don’t listen to me when I have a problem.”

“Sometimes, when I go to the shops, people just look at me […] I think the council could train people to help people with disability […] and be like ‘OK, are you sure you’re alright with this? We can help you out, if you need more help, just call us back.’ […] Not just shove us off like we are rubbish.”

4. Build well-designed environments

Their talks frequently turned to the construction and upkeep of accessible public spaces, parks, and recreational sites.

Participants discussed how they can improve everyone’s experiences in the community, telling them:

“We need more accessible drop-offs right at the library [and pool] […] we have to walk too far and get tired as a group. It caused a problem before because we were always late to the class.”

“The council should fix our [pedestrian] crossing, they go too fast, someone nearly got hit last week.”

What Can Councils Do to Improve?

In a Disability Inclusion Action Plan, local governments and state government departments define their integration plans and outcomes. These strategies are intended to convert into practical actions by councils to promote more inclusive communities for everybody, based on recognized needs through local consultations with individuals with disabilities, their caregivers, and family members.

Source: The Conversation

When they spoke with local government leaders about the outcomes of their study, they discovered a wide range of staffing and resource availability to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities. They do, however, have a real desire and willingness to do things differently.

It is an excellent place to start by defining what inclusiveness is and is not. according to Jack Kelly, a member of their research team and a person with a disability:

“Holding an event once a year for International Day of People with A Disability doesn’t make your council inclusive.”

Providing some practical guidelines on integrated care is one method to increase local governments’ confidence in engaging more frequently and regularly with various local governments, including individuals with intellectual disabilities. There are a plethora of materials available on the internet to assist in this endeavor.

Beyond local government, every civic participation opportunity, such as the urban planning process and voting, is deserving of consideration.

People with low literacy, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people with intellectual impairments, and all other populations in between can all benefit from giving information in a variety of forms and clearly explaining processes.

As people with intellectual disabilities have pointed out, inclusive employment is one of the most crucial steps toward increased social and civic inclusion.

This would not only show that individuals with disabilities are respected in their communities, but it would also imply that knowledge and social capital concerning inclusion could be generated from the ground up.

According to Justine O’Neill, CEO of the Council for Intellectual Disability told them:

“Employing people with intellectual disability in roles that support the purpose of the organization changes attitudes, builds organizational capacity and confidence to be an inclusive employer, and results in better-informed work.”

Information from The Conversation

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Ashlyn Pieri

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