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Creating a connection – the importance of community for disabled people

By David Ashton-Jones, Chief Executive of Homes Together

David Ashton-Jones, author of The Importance of Community for Disabled People

Having a sense of community and connection is essential for happiness and mental well-being. It’s at the heart of all our lives – it supports us, gives us a sense of belonging and defines our identities. Sadly, simple community activities like going out with friends, to events or just to the shop are still a real challenge for many disabled people. From minimal transport options to actual physical barriers, engaging with the communities they live in can be extremely challenging. 

At Homes Together we care for adults living with disabilities in homes in Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon and Gateshead. And we’ve made it our mission to not only meet their practical needs, but also to enrich their emotional and social lives and promote independence. That’s because we believe everyone should have the chance to build essential connections with their local communities.

The benefits of community for disabled people

Being part of a community gives a sense of belonging, as well as the chance to take part in the simple joys of normal life. This in turn reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness – things that can often be exacerbated for disabled people. Community also brings help from peers and friends, whether that’s emotional support, encouragement or simply a sense of togetherness. All of this contributes to improved mental health and wellbeing.

Social inclusion is an essential aspect of community participation. It goes beyond just occupying the same space; it involves acceptance and building relationships with others. Feeling like you belong in this way is fundamental to overall wellbeing for everybody. 

There’s a practical advantage too. Integrating disabled people into their communities is a vital tool for overcoming the day-to-day challenges of accessing local amenities – like going to shops and restaurants. 

Bringing communities together at Homes Together

Having a hobby has been strongly linked to happiness and well-being, so it’s vital that everyone, regardless of their abilities, is able to pursue their passions. 

Our team supports our service users to be independent, helping them to enjoy a wide range of interests and activities and become part of their local communities. This means that they can live a fulfilling life in a way that improves their mental and physical well-being.

We do this by giving them access to different types of activities and outings, like trips to local leisure centres, parks or restaurants, painting, or pottery workshops, or even singalongs with a choir. We’re particularly keen on physical activities like swimming (a great low-impact exercise for those with limited mobility), fitness classes and scuba diving, for example. 

Why do we do this? Because we want to offer everybody, whatever their abilities, the chance to live life to the fullest. One of the ways we’re making this happen is by offering sponsorships to organisations that cater for people with different needs – so we have plenty of options available for anyone who wants them.

How community interaction can transform society as a whole

community for disabled people

Making amenities accessible to all will benefit everyone, not just the six million disabled people in the UK. How? By giving non-disabled people, a better understanding of the unique challenges that disabled people face every day. 

It also breaks down stereotypes and bias. And this encourages acceptance and inclusion, plus social empathy. That can only be a good thing.

It doesn’t end there either. Caregivers who champion education and awareness from the ground up can be truly transformative, promoting shifts in cultural attitudes. This can in turn lead to concrete improvements in services, policies, and infrastructure, which benefit all of society.

The future’s bright

It’s clear that being part of the local community is vital for disabled people. The benefits of access to support networks, improved social inclusion and the chance to develop more independence can’t be overstated. 

That’s why we at Homes Together will continue to build connections with the communities we live and work in. Our ultimate goal? To create a more inclusive and accessible environment for all.

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