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Social inclusion for individuals with disabilities

Wednesday, 06 July 2011

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In April, Professor Sue Balandin spoke to over 60 disability health workers and families of individuals with disabilities at ECU in a public lecture presented by the Social Justice Research Centre. Professor Balandin, from University College Molde in Norway and Adjunct Professor at ECU, was visiting to collaborate with Speech Pathology colleagues from the SJRC on projects related to social inclusion of children and adults with developmental disabilities. The title of the lecture was "Participation by adults with lifelong disability: More than a trip to the bowling alley." Professor Balandin focused on the idea that true social participation involves more than token excursions into environments where they still tend to remain segregated from their non-disabled counterparts, and highlighted how adults with lifelong disabilities are typically limited in their choice of leisure activities, job opportunities, and social interactions by the nature of their life situation and community attitudes. Such situations may involve carers who 'protect' them from external influences, restricted financial resources, and negative attitudes of the community at large to intellectual and physical disabilities.

Professor Balandin reviewed historical trends in the treatment of people with disabilities and encouraged the audience to remember the number of ageing adults with disabilities who grew up in restrictive institutional environments. She challenged the audience to think of how these individuals could be given better options for the remainder of their lives. In particular she focused on individuals with limited communication skills/speech, highlighting the importance of communication to autonomy and self-advocacy. She also discussed such developments as Second Life in terms of both personal and therapeutic opportunities for social participation, and the unique experiences that they can offer for individuals with physical, cognitive, and communication restrictions.

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