February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). As part of our Federation’s commitment to inclusion, every week this month we will feature a blog written by either a member of our community, his or her parent, or a volunteer or professional working with one of our partner organizations that serves individuals living with special needs.
To kick off JDAIM, we are sharing tips with our community about how to be more inclusive of people with all abilities. Please read the tips below and share them with your friends, colleagues, and family members.
Get Inspired: Tips to be More Inclusive of People with Disabilities
Open Up to New Experiences
- You might be surprised at how contagious a smile can be.
- Start a conversation. You can learn so much from people who are different.
- Be considerate. Some people with disabilities might take extra time to get things done or said. Let them set the pace.
- Be aware of eye contact. When talking to someone who has a disability, speak directly to that person rather than through a companion.
- Follow cues. See if a person prefers sign language, gesturing, writing, or speaking.
- Look to the Torah. Some of our most important biblical leaders like Jacob, Leah, and Moses had a disability. Everyone has the power to make history.
- Everyone feels respected when they know you’re listening to their point of view.
- Learn more. Don’t know much about cerebral palsy or autism? Learn about the disabilities that impact people in your community.
- Be encouraging rather than correcting. Rather than speaking for the person, be patient.
- Focus on the positive. Note a person’s strengths and encourage them when they do well.
Easy Steps Toward Inclusion
- Sweat the small stuff. It’s the small things, like being courteous, that make a difference.
- Be a self-advocate. Address myths and misconceptions.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Treat others the way they want to be treated.
- Lead the way. Let your inclusive behavior create a path for others to follow.
- Offer assistance. Help a person if you sense the person needs assistance, but wait until your offer is accepted BEFORE you help.
- Say hello. You just might make someone’s day.
- Create inclusive activities. If you have a friend, classmate, or family member with a disability, remember to plan activities that allow for meaningful participation.
- Speak up. If you notice that an activity at your organization is not accessible for all, say something.
- Words matter. Learn appropriate language used when discussing disability issues.
Make a Lasting Impact
- Spend time at a Jewish organization that supports people living with disabilities.
- Offer equal opportunities. Hire people with special needs — they can be effective employees.
- Make changes. Start an inclusion committee at your synagogue or school to make changes that create a culture of inclusion.
- Ask more questions. Is my camp handicap accessible? Does my synagogue have an American Sign Language interpreter? What will improve accessibility in my institution?
- Offer your friendship. Strength and happiness can come from the love and support of true friends.
- Designate funds to enhance an organization’s programs or building access for individuals with special needs.
- Connect for support. Contact HaMercaz, the central resource for families with children with special needs at (866) 287-8030 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Los Angeles Jewish Abilities Center, the community resource for Jewish adults with special needs and their caregivers, at (323) 761-8105 or LAJAC@JewishLA.org.
Easy Steps Toward Advocacy
The purpose of advocacy and self-advocacy is for you and your family to decide what it is you want, develop a plan, carry out that plan, and evaluate your success.
Here are 10 steps to achieving those goals:
- Define the problem. Be clear about what the problems are and how you would like to resolve them.
- Develop an action plan. Your action plan will identify what you’re going to do, how you are going to do it, the date you want to do it by, and the people who can help you.
- Carrying out the action plan. Gather documentation to support your solution. Keep a log of your activities.
- Seek out support from your peers, family members, friends, staff members, and others who are supportive of what you want. You may need to demonstrate that your plan is workable and supported by others.
- Prep and prepare. Role-play or rehearse what you are going to say. You may want to talk to other people about effective ways to approach people in charge. Talk or write through what you want to say before you have to say it.
- Timing is important when presenting your issue. Never approach a situation when you are angry.
- Make sure that you document all of your efforts. If you need help later with your issue, it will help the person assisting you to figure out what your issue is, who is involved, and what you have done to try and resolve your issue. Keep letters and emails of all correspondence.
- Evaluate your success. Review what you did, how you did it, and if you got what you wanted. If you didn’t get what you wanted, what steps do you need to take to be successful in getting what you want?
- Don’t give up. It is important not to give up if your first attempt to change something doesn’t work out. You may have to stop your plan and try other strategies to get what you want. The important thing to remember is to keep trying until you are satisfied.
- Advocate for others just as you would advocate for yourself. Always remember that there are other people who may need help getting started with steps 1-9 above and you can be the one to help them reach their goals!
Adapted from www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles provides those with developmental and other disabilities with greater access to quality services and programs that enhance daily living and inclusion in our community. The Los Angeles Jewish Abilities Center (LAJAC), the community resource for Jewish adults with special needs and caregivers, is an initiative of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. This strategic response to increased communal needs was launched with support from a Cutting Edge Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. We have created an accessible platform that will empower people of all abilities and all ages to access the tools and resources they need, promote collaboration, and live meaningful, purposeful, and Jewish lives. To learn more about LAJAC, visit www.lajac.org.