Way towards Community Integration

September 23, 2020

In India, 2.2 per cent of the total population experience disabilities in their lifetimes. Individuals with disabilities may have difficulties in their physical capacity, the ability to think and to speak. Also, they may experience reduced independence in areas such as financial management, travelling, decision-making, education, social networking, self-care, and taking part in leisure activities. So, when they return to activities in real-world settings, they may find them to be high demanding. This is because of the undetected shortcomings that can impact the continuity of valued roles, like being a productive member of society, adversely.

So, does this mean that individuals with disabilities cannot be considered as integral members of the society in which they live? Do they not have the same rights and requirements as other members? It is important for society to recognise the value of ensuring that all members of a community come together despite their different levels of abilities and capabilities, in order for a community to be successful. For this success to happen, it is important that all its members are made to feel valued.

Hence, a concept like community integration is needed. Community integration is an ability to work within the culture and, above all, be respected for one's individuality and skills. Integration in the community includes human variables such as motivation, abilities, style of social activity and patterns of growth. For community integration of individuals with disability to occur successfully, the first step is the involvement of family members, because as they say charity begins at home and so too does community integration. Family members should accept the individuality and skills of the individual, regardless of their disability.

At the next level is society and its members. All of us are living in a social world and we all need and provide support to each other to be able to manage our lives. So too do individuals with disabilities. While most of the times, people wonder what a person with disability could contribute to society, you might be surprised at what a person can do, if they are provided the right supports.

At the next step is the importance of social support groups. Social support is characterized as the feeling and knowledge that one is valued and looked after, and part of the social network of mutual assistance and responsibility by others. Social support can come from family members, co-workers, neighbourhood relations and even loyal pets. These social support from individuals who share a culture and space with individual with disability are in a better position to help the individual to cope with their life situation and develop a healthy outlook in the community itself.

Let us talk about Mrs. Sudha’s life story. Mrs. Sudha is a 34-year-old schoolteacher who lives with her husband and two young children. She met with a car accident which caused her to have a head injury. Following this head injury, Mrs. Sudha has difficulties in performing many of the activities that she used to do before, such as household activities, doing her job as a schoolteacher etc. Her family, especially her husband has been extremely supportive of Mrs. Sudha in these times. He took responsibility for many of the household activities while Mrs. Sudha was recovering. Meanwhile Mrs. Sudha was referred to occupational therapy. She identified that she wanted to go back to doing all her life roles that she was prior to her accident. Accordingly, intervention program based on short term and long term was developed by her therapist to re-establish her roles, beginning with those in the home, and then in the school setting. Her family and co-workers helped her in this process and she slowly gained her ability to perform all her cherished roles such as household activities, taking care of others in her family, returning to work, taking part in leisure activities and social roles. Thus, Mrs. Sudha had a successful community reintegration.

An intervention program can be developed to help prepare caregivers to provide a sense of belonging for the individual with a disability to improve their optimistic attitude and determination. Also at the societal level, interventions can aim to conduct programs for an understanding of disability issues, the rights of persons with disabilities, gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.

It is important to focus on the ability and not on the disability of an individual. Attitudes focused on stigma and discrimination, as well as outdated beliefs about disability and people with disabilities, are the biggest obstacles to their complete and equitable inclusion in society. Also, it is important to remember that disability is part of human nature and that during our lives, many of us are or may become disabled to some degree. Hence, it is necessary for all of us to change our attitude towards individuals with disabilities and work on developing a more equitable and just society.

Role of occupational therapy

Occupational therapy for people with disabilities focuses mainly on community-based activities aimed at improving the engagement of individuals in day-to-day activities such as self-care, independence in moving from one place to other, communication with others, household chores, etc. For individuals with disability, occupational therapists first concentrate on injury awareness and prevention, long-term recovery program, and help the individual and his/her family member to identify appropriate community services.

Following this, occupational therapy professionals will concentrate on the social skills and participation of an individual including the use of the transportation system, financial management, health management and safety care. Further to this, occupational therapy promotes the reintegration of people with disabilities who want to re-join their jobs in the society. Occupational therapists as a professional who can assist people discuss their strengths or abilities in reaching a long-term objective of social inclusion or community integration, regardless of conditions.

If you or your family members are having difficulties with being integrated into the community then please contact the number given below.

Written by Vaishnavi Vilas Pawar (MOT, Student), Rahul Arun Shinde (MOT, Student), Lavanya Padmashali (Clinical Supervisor).





By Lavanya Padmashali
Lavanya Padmashali is an occupational therapist at the Manipal College of Health Professions of Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal.
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Comment on this article

  • Rohan, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 25 2020

    Very informative writing and a good social cause...

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