What is Disability Inclusion?

Including people with disabilities in everyday activities and encouraging them to have roles similar to their peers who do not have a disability is disability inclusion. This involves more than simply encouraging people; it requires making sure that adequate policies and practices are in effect in a community or organization.

Inclusion should lead to increased participation in socially expected life roles and activities—such as being a student, worker, friend, community member, patient, spouse, partner, or parent.

Socially expected activities may also include engaging in social activities, using public resources such as transportation and libraries, moving about within communities, receiving adequate health care, having relationships, and enjoying other day-to-day activities.

Disability Inclusion and the Health of People with Disabilities

Disability inclusion allows for people with disabilities to take advantage of the benefits of the same health promotion and prevention activities experienced by people who do not have a disability. Examples of these activities include:

  • Education and counseling programs that promote physical activity, improve nutrition or reduce the use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs; and
  • Blood pressure and cholesterol assessment during annual health exams, and screening for illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Including people with disabilities in these activities begins with identifying and eliminating barriers to their participation.

Why is This Important?

Disability affects approximate 56.7 million, or nearly 1 in 5 (18.7%) people in the United States living in communities. Disability affects more than one billion people worldwide.1,2 According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, people “. . . with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory [such as hearing or vision] impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”3

People with disabilities experience significant disadvantages when it comes to health such as:

  • Adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities;4
  • Adults with disabilities are more likely than adults without disabilities to be current smokers;5 and
  • Women with disabilities are less likely than women without disabilities to have received a breast cancer X-ray test (mammogram) during the past 2 years. 6

Although disability is associated with health conditions (such as arthritis, mental, or emotional conditions) or events (such as injuries), the functioning, health, independence, and engagement in society of people with disabilities can vary depending on several factors:

  • Severity of the underlying impairment
  • Social, political, and cultural influences and expectations
  • Aspects of natural and built surroundings
  • Availability of assistive technology and devices
  • Family and community support and engagement

Disability inclusion means understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society, and making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires.

Useful Web Links:

PACER Center provides workshops, individual assistance and disseminates materials to help parents become informed and effective representatives for their children with disabilities in early childhood, school-age and vocational settings. Excellent site for publications on support services.
M&L Special Needs Planning provides special needs services catered to families with special needs. We know from personal experience that each one of us wants the comfort of knowing that we will be able to provide lifetime quality care for our individual(s) with special needs.
National Parent Information Network (NPIN) provides access to research-based information about the process of parenting, and about family involvement in education.
The National Information Center for Children and Youths with Disabilities: (NICHCY) is a national information and referral service that provides information on disabilities and disability-related issues for families, educators, and other professionals with a special focus on children and youth (birth to age 22).
The Special Ed Advocate provides parents, educators, attorneys, and other helping professionals with the information they need to be effective advocates for special needs children. This site contains current articles, cases, and links relating to special education.
Through the Looking Glass is a nationally-recognized center that has pioneered research, training and services for families in which a child, parent or grandparent has a disability or medical issue.
Parents Helping Parents (PHP) strives to improve the quality of life for any child with any special need of any age, through educating, supporting and training their primary caregivers.
TASH is an international leader in disability advocacy for human rights and inclusion for people with significant disabilities and support needs. TASH works to advance inclusive communities through advocacy, research, professional development, policy and information and resources for parents, families and self-advocates.
The Federation for Children with Special Needs provides information, support and assistance to parents of children with disabilities, their professional partners and their communities. We are committed to listening to and learning from families, and encouraging full participation in community life by all people, especially those with disabilities.
Family Voices aims to achieve family-centered care for all children and youth with special health care needs and/or disabilities. Through their national network, they provide families with tools to make informed decisions, advocate for improved public and private policies, build partnerships among professionals and families, and serve as a trusted resource on health care.
Team Of Advocates For Special Kids is a nonprofit charitable organization whose mission is to enable individuals with disabilities to reach their maximum potential.
The Resource Room provides tools, strategies and structured explorations for interesting learners, including lessons, ideas, articles and links for multisensory learning for people of all ages, including those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia.
Disability Resources, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization established to promote and improve awareness, availability and accessibility of information that can help people with disabilities live, learn, love, work and play independently.
National Disability Rights Network protects and advocates for the rights of people with disabilities across the United States and the territories.
World Vision International strives to see full, equal and meaningful participation of children and adults with disabilities in all spheres of society.