Through the Inclusive Lens
For example: Organization X, which works with at-risk youths, has had trouble for years helping its members retain jobs long term. Then the staff reads something that says many at-risk youths have learning disabilities, many of which were not diagnosed or treated while they were in school. The organization begins to focus on education — GED classes, hiring teachers with experience teaching students with learning disabilities, etc. By getting to the root of the problem, organization X improves its effectiveness dramatically as more at-risk youths retain their jobs longer.
All age groups of our population are affected, and being inclusive can help change attitudes. For example, an inclusive childcare setting means exposure to different types of children, which can lay the foundation for inclusion later in life. Inclusive programs where typically developing teens interact and learn alongside teens with disabilities can help remove barriers. The goal is to include everyone in your organization’s programming — and thus push society forward. When the third sector is on board, private businesses and the public sector will follow suit.
Finally, people with disabilities face great challenges. But their ability to be resilient and innovative in the face of difficulties could provide a much needed positive influence for your current constituents, who may be confronting problems of their own. Considering the issues together may prove invaluable for your constituents.
Or vice versa: Your expertise as an organization could provide much needed assistance for people with disabilities. For example, only one in five people with a disability participates in the labor market (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 2012). They face issues of accessibility, lack of accommodation of flex work times or preconceived notions of this population’s abilities. Yet workers with disabilities are consistently rated among the most committed and dedicated employees in the workforce. If your organization helps with job training and placement, you could be helping many more people in your community. The more people with disabilities who join the workforce, the better for society … and the economy, as well.