For all of us the quality of our lives is related to our relationships.
Social capital is a human relations strategy for all of us. It levels the table for us.
People with disabilities, whether the disability is acquired or whether it has always been there, experience isolation.
Services for people with disabilities often analyse their deficits. This is called the micro approach to disability. The micro- approach aims to solve this problem by “fixing” the person with a disability. If the person’s deficits are fixed then the isolation will be addressed.
Al’s cousin Carrie had a cleft palette and had hundreds of hours of speech therapy. It wasn’t all that effective. And every hour of speech therapy that she had was an hour that she was not in her community developing relationships.
But if we can’t fix someone’s problems, then what can we do? What can we fix?
Well, we can take a macro focus. We can change the environment, the culture, society’s perception of the person.
Al’s family could understand his cousin Carrie. Because they had a relationship with Carrie. Carrie didn’t change. But the family did.
Macro change, changing the world, has two tracks.
1. Let’s change the laws.
There have been a lot of laws changed in the last few decades. But… it hasn’t really changed a lot of people’s attitudes. “You can’t legislate morality… You cannot pass a regulation that will cause people to be nice.” ~Al Condeluci
2. Social Capital
Understanding relationships is a strategy for changing the world.
When people build relationships they treat each other nicer, they are more compassionate and honest and kinder.
The average person without a disability has about 150 relationships, but people with disabilities have on average about 24. Those relationships are key to getting jobs, staying safe and staying healthy.
What can I do about this?
1. Relationships can’t happen in the abstract. People have to actually be in community.
2. Similarity overrides the perception of difference and builds a bridge to connection. Use points of similarity between people to help them connect.
3. Regularity (frequency of exchange) is required to make meaningful connections and to dilute perceptions of difference.
4. Ask yourself, where do the people who share one’s interests gather regularly around their interests?
5. Identify the social norms of that group and teach the person with a disability those social expectations.
6. Identify a gatekeeper in that space. A gatekeeper is someone who already belongs in the space and who other group members respect. Try and engage the gatekeeper with the person with a disability seeking belonging and relationship in the group.
Thanks for Listening!
Resources & Links Mentioned:
Al’s books, INTERDEPENDENCE (1991,1995,CRC Press), BEYOND DIFFERENCE (1996, CRC Press), CULTURAL SHIFTING (2002, TRN Press) ADVOCACY FOR CHANGE: A MANUAL FOR ACTION (2004, ANCOR Foundation Press) THE ESSENCE OF INTERDEPENDENCE (2008, Lash Publishing) TOGETHER IS BETTER (2008, Lash Publishing), SOCIAL CAPITAL: The Key to Macro Change (2014, Lash Publishing), and the MACRO CHANGE HANDBOOK (2015, Lash Publishing) have won praises and awards for their thoughtful approach to culture and community and are now used at many colleges, universities and in-service settings. His books are now available through Lash Publishing website www.lapublishing.com (919-562-0015), at www.classcommunity.org, or www.alcondeluci.com.
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Special thanks to Al Condeluci for joining me this week. Until next time!