The States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have agreed on various provisions such as ‘promotion of the full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of their human rights and fundamental freedoms’ (United Nations, 2007, p.1). The studies carried out by the convention served as a catalyst for the movement for the rights of disabled citizens around the World.
First attempts for the inclusion of disabled citizens were focused on physical accessibility issues. But of course, not only physical but also social and mental inclusion are important determinants of well‐being. Acceptance by others is one of the four basic human needs (Lloyd, Tse, and Deane, 2006). So, social inclusion is considered as a necessity of life which provides emotional support and fosters positive psychological health (Hartup & Stevens, 1999).
In recent years, policies in Western countries focus on increasing the social inclusion of mentally disabled citizens as well as their independence and empowerment (Scior, 2011). However, implementation has proven more challenging and the high rate of social exclusion still stands out as an ongoing problem (Simplican, Leader, Kosciulek & Leahy, 2015). Individuals with intellectual disabilities typically require lifelong support and are often at risk of being excluded from participation in society (Schalock, 2004). Generally, social networks of disabled persons consist of family, support staff or other persons with disabilities. Since some of the citizens try to visit them in help centers, these relationships often not seen as reciprocal (Randt, 2011).
In a systematic review study conducted by Scior (2011) awareness, attitudes and beliefs regarding intellectual disability among the general public of working age are examined. Findings showed that although people seem to broadly agree with the right of people with intellectual disabilities to be included in society, they are reluctant to interact with them, at least partly, to discomfort and anxiety. So, reducing anxiety concerning interactions is seen as one of the requirements (Pettigrew and Tropp, 2006). Low awareness and negative attitudes at the general population level are also other major findings that should be changed through social inclusion efforts.
According to the results of the study conducted by Wilson et. al (2017) individuals with intellectual disabilities have been found to feel engaged and connected and develop a sense of social belonging through social support.
Hall (2009) conducted a meta-analysis of 15 qualitative studies exploring the social inclusion of persons with disabilities. Six themes are identified as being critical to their social inclusion:
(a) being accepted as an individual beyond the disability,
(b) having significant and reciprocal personal relationships,
(c) being involved in activities,
(d) having appropriate living accommodations,
(e) having employment, and
(f) receiving formal and informal supports
Duggan & Linehan (2013) reviewed the literature and have identified four key strategies for inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities. These strategies are:
- circles of support,
- peer-based approaches,
- befriending strategies and
- programs that enhance social competencies.
Circles of support is formalized support by family and friends to help the disabled person achieve a personal goal. Peer-based approaches are related to supporting each other through shared experiences. Befriending strategies are planning interventions by disability organizations to make friends with volunteers and those with mental disabilities. Training programs are designed to train disabled individuals independent living, social and leisure time skills.
Duggan, C., & Linehan, C. (2013). The role of ‘natural supports’ in promoting independent living for people with disabilities; a review of existing literature. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 41(3), 199-207.
Hall, S. A. (2009). The social inclusion of people with disabilities: A qualitative meta-analysis. Journal of Ethnographic and Qualitative Research, 3, 162–173.
Hartup W. W. & Stevens N. (1999) Friendships and adaptation across the life span. Current Directions in Psychological Science 8, 76–79
Lloyd, C., Tse, S., Deane, F.P. (2006). Community participation and social inclusion: How practitioners can make a difference. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 5(3), www.auseinet.com/journal/vol5iss3/lloyd.pdf
Randt, N. (2011). Social Inclusion for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
Schalock, R. L. (2004). The concept of quality of life: What we know and do not know. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 48, 203–216. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2003.00558.x
Scior, K. (2011). Public awareness, attitudes and beliefs regarding intellectual disability: A systematic review. Research in developmental disabilities, 32(6), 2164-2182
Simplican, S. C., Leader, G., Kosciulek, J., & Leahy, M. (2015). Defining social inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities: An ecological model of social networks and community participation. Research in developmental disabilities, 38, 18-29.
United Nations. (2007). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York: United Nations.
Wilson, N. J., Jaques, H., Johnson, A., & Brotherton, M. L. (2017). From social exclusion to supported inclusion: Adults with an intellectual disability discuss their lived experiences of a structured social group. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 30(5), 847-858.