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Inclusion: A Basic Need for People of All Abilities

Nearly 30 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all places that are open to the general public. However, the reality is that people with disabilities still find plenty of instances where inclusive opportunities are not available or even considered.

Inclusion is defined as acting to contain within as part of the whole or group. In terms of community, it means that all people, regardless of their ability, disability, or other needs have the right to be respected as valuable members of their community. Even with the establishment of the ADA, people with disabilities still face barriers that don’t always allow for this opportunity, whether it is accessibility in community establishments, assumptions about an individual’s ability to participate in or contribute to the community, or even just transportation to conduct daily activities.

The Arc of Washington County works to advocate, improve systems of support and services, connect families, inspire communities, and influence public policy for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization’s Self-Advocates share their voices to help promote inclusion for all. They recently established the “A through Z’s of Inclusion” to share some ways that it can become part of everyday life for all. Some examples include “I=Invitation: We want to be involved—just ask us!” and “L=Love: It really does make the world go round” and “Y=You: You and Me and All of us are in this life together.” Find the whole collection … from A to Z … on the organization’s Facebook page @TheArcofWashPA

How can you expand inclusion in your community? A good start is by helping to change language. For example, most people know the R-word is no longer appropriate to describe someone with an intellectual disability. But it is still heard in various contexts as a synonym for “stupid.” Say something. Change something. Be an advocate. It really is that easy!

If you would like to learn more about Self-Advocacy for individuals with disabilities, how you can be an advocate in the community, or The Arc of Washington County’s monthly educational and networking meetings for individuals and their families, please contact Director of Advocacy, Darrilyn McCrerey, at mccrereyd@arcofwashpa.org or (724) 745-3010 x 109.

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