Intellectual disability and social inclusion

people walking down a wide pedestrian zone. Intellectual disability and social inclusion.Local government authorities are exactly that – local. They are the tier of government closest to the everyday lives of people. Local neighbourhoods are where people feel either socially included or not. People with intellectual disability are much more likely to feel socially excluded. A research project undertaken by the University of Technology (UTS) took a novel approach to the issue.

To begin, they recruited researchers with intellectual disability to participate in all aspects of designing and carrying out the research. This was a key step for informing the research process. 

The purpose of the study was to understand the experiences of people with intellectual disability in their local community. They found that people with intellectual disability have valuable information to share. However, their voices are not heard and consequently their needs are not understood.

The discussion starter was the question, “What would you do if you were boss of your local council?” The answers were that they want their council to:

      • Provide accessible information in a range of formats about what is happening in the community and how to participate.
      • Provide someone to speak to – or even better, face to face contact.
      • Employ people with intellectual disability.
      • Help them access better transport and find ways to make them feel safer and more welcome. 
      • Improve public toilets and offer quiet spaces at noisy, busy events. 

A framework for change

The analysis phase of the research adopted the framework of the eight domains of the WHO Age Friendly Cities program. The eight domains are pitched to community life at the local level. It is a good framework for councils to use to improve the participation of people with intellectual disability as well as older people.

WHO age friendly logo of 8 petals showing the 8 domains of life.
WHO 8 Domains Framework

The analysis showed that participants wanted to know what is available and how to get around the community. Familiar faces and places were important. They also wanted respectful interactions with others in the community. These findings have some important information for councils and their social policy. 

Grouping people with intellectual disability under the generic term “people with disability” risks leaving them out. Communication and engagement strategies need to be adapted so they can access social and civic activities.

The title of the article is, Opportunities to support social inclusion for people with intellectual disability at a local level. Published in the Design for All India Newsletter. It is based on a published study, If I Was the Boss of My Local Government: Perspectives of People with Intellectual Disabilities on Improving InclusionThe author is Dr Phillippa Carnemolla who is also a CUDA board member.

This is a comprehensive article with recommendations for local government.