Research Theme: Participating in community and social life

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The communities we live in and the friends and support we have are very important to people’s lives.


Communities come in many shapes and forms. They can be defined in terms of place, for example, your “local community” where you live, or rural or urban communities.  Or the word “community” can describe a group of people who have the same interest or culture.  There are lots of ways to describe a community but it’s more often than not a place where people find mutual support and company, as well as services to meet every day needs.


Being part of a local community which supports and includes disabled people, and respects disabled people’s rights, is very important for independent living.  Everyone should have the freedom to visit their friends and relatives.  Everyone should be able to go to the local cinema, sports centre, evening classes, places of worship, or any other local places and events if they want to.


But too often disabled people are excluded. They do not get the support or money they need to do these things.  And even if they can get to such places, it does not follow that they will be able to participate on an equal basis. Too often disabled people have not been involved in any discussions about how the services they need are provided to them, for example from the local authority or from a voluntary organisation.  Without hearing disabled people’s views, organisations providing services don’t know how the services could be best designed and planned to meet disabled people’s needs.  And, if well designed, properly funded services are not available, disabled people may live “in the community” but not be included in it.  They are left in isolation.


These are the particular issues that disabled people at the roadshows thought were priorities:


  • Socially connected and supported: How can social isolation be prevented? What service do disabled people need to enable their participation in their local community? This might include social care and public transport services. It includes appropriate, accessible housing and public buildings. How can disabled people support each other? How can they be connected to and contribute to their local community? How can disabled people be involved in cultural life, leisure, sport and the arts? How can organisations in local communities be fully inclusive? This includes organisations like schools, faith organisations and community groups. What would help make that happen?


  • Designing and planning services: Disabled people must be at the centre of designing and planning services which are new or which need changing to support independent living better.  What can be done to make this happen?


  • Respected and valued: Disabled people contribute to all aspects of life.  With the right support (including peer support) they might be able to contribute even more.  Why is the contribution of disabled people not recognised and valued?  What can be done to address this?  How can the negative attitudes and behaviour of some people towards disabled people be changed?


  • Safety and wellbeing: Many disabled people are concerned about their wellbeing, here and now and in the future. It is about feeling safe, as well as actually being safe. Issues raised include feeling safe when using public transport, having good support networks in place, and the impact of environmental change. It is also about how to stop disability hate crime, including bullying. How can these issues be sorted out?