Each year in March many groups come together to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all areas of community life, as well as awareness to the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live. What does it mean to be included? The basic definition in the dictionary is “being part of the whole” but what does it really mean for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be included or to be “part of the whole”? In the public policy arena, at least, it should be taken to mean that people with I/DD are considered at the time of the policy development, not after! People with I/DD should not have to “ask” to be included in affordable housing discussions, after all, isn’t housing a basic human right? What about accessible transportation? Do other people have to “ask” to go to work, school, shopping, doctor’s appointment or even on a date? When you really begin to think about how many federal, state, county and local level policies are created without the inclusion of people with I/DD it becomes quite obvious why there are still barriers to connecting in the community. If people with I/DD are truly to be “part of the whole” then they need to be there for the whole discussion, not as a carve-out or a carve-in or an amendment or anything else that represents an after-thought.
This year The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration Public Policy Conference theme is INTERSECTIONS – WHERE DISABILITY AND LIFE MEET. People with I/DD experience many intersections throughout their lives and must make decisions about their health, education, housing, employment, transportation, family and personal relationships, and interactions with the criminal justice system. This conference will explore those intersections and the implications for public policy as well the importance of being included in all of those discussions from the beginning. To find more information about the conference visit the conference website.