What’s The Deal with Inclusion?
In Best Buddies, we talk a lot about inclusion. We advocate for inclusion, we promote an Inclusion Revolution! We learn about, discuss, and demand inclusion.
But … what is inclusion? And why do we care about it?
If you are reading this, chances are you are familiar with our mission, which is rooted in creating inclusive communities through friendship, leadership, jobs, and living. We match people with and without disabilities so that friendships are inclusive. We empower leaders of all abilities to manage their chapters so that our programs are fully inclusive. We invest in companies and connect skilled individuals with the right job so that all workplaces are inclusive. We build homes that are made up of people with and without disabilities so that living is inclusive. And we love it. We see the benefits every day because we know that when we bring people together with different backgrounds, different experiences, and different skill sets, the world becomes a better place. We know this because we feel it. But is it true?
Well, science says YES. In a study published in 2015, research found that inclusion actually improves lives. The findings share that when people with disabilities are integrated into the social fabric of the community and accepted as an individual beyond disability, there is an improvement in happiness, self-esteem, decision making capacity, and perceptions of value. But the benefits of inclusion are not limited to the person with disabilities who experiences them. The entire community benefits when inclusion is practiced. Research found that inclusion “decreases negative attitudes, stereotypes, stigma and discrimination” (who doesn’t like that?!); combats poverty and unemployment (great for bettering communities!); enhances community safety (sounds good to me!) and helps shape national policies. Just, wow.
So, including people with and without disabilities in shared experiences is critical. Think of this this way: when you make matches, when you include people from your chapter at your lunch table, when all of your members are invited to community outings, when you make sure that your chapter leadership team has equal roles for members with and without disabilities, when you talk about getting a job with your friends with disabilities, when you encourage matching at other schools in your area and with adults you know, when you write to your e-Buddy, when you participate in the Best Buddies Friendship Walk, when you introduce your buddy to your family – you are not just making your life better. You are making the WORLD better.
It’s in the facts. Research tells us “social inclusion improves lives – for people with and without disabilities.” Stacy Clifford Simplican, Hegarty Fellow and PhD in political theory and American politics, says that “social inclusion is for all of us: an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability; for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a group; for members of society who will benefit from their inclusion; and for nation states who can benefit from the participation of people with all levels of abilities.”
So yeah, we all love our chapter meetings, our state events, and when we go bowling together or eat lunch with our buddy. But by simply participating in this mission, you are helping to shape a future where people of all abilities are seen for their value, their community contributions, their skills, and their potential. And you are improving your life, the life of your buddy, and your community values. Oh, and did we mention you’re probably having a lot of fun doing it?
Have you had an experience where inclusion has made a positive impact on you? We want to hear about it! Share with us @bbuniversity on all social handles. And if you want to learn more about joining us on this exciting journey to change the world, visit www.bestbuddies.org/bbu to find a program near you!
Be sure to stay tuned as we explore how we can demonstrate inclusion through Best Buddies programs and the simple choices we make every day! More on The Daily Best to come!