Nidhi

Written"Belonging"Participation"

Friends and connections are an essential part of anybodys life however for people with disability it's not always as simple as Nidhi Shekeran explores in this piece about social inclusion...

People with disability are excluded from the traditional ways of making friends and are also isolated and excluded from society. As a result of these two factors, people with disability often find it harder to make and sustain connections. Friendships are very important aspects of social inclusion as they provide people with an opportunity to build a network of people around them that are their own age. Friendships also allow people to express their ideas in a safe environment, and generally have some fun and a laugh.

The barriers that exist for people with disability are varied and affect different people in different ways. Often these come down to the fact that there are fewer opportunities to make friends when you are not socially included in your community. Another common barrier to making friends is that a lot of relationships that people have are based on a work – client basis, which doesn’t mean people can’t be friends, but restricts the extent to which this friendship can develop. Other barriers that people with disability come up against are transportation to social events and their mobility at them and lack of disability awareness. In asking my own friends who have disabilities about this issue they agreed that they had experienced these same barriers.

There are some things that you can do to help alleviate these barriers though such as trying a variety of different activities or going to the same activity consistently over a period of time, bonding over common interests, and always taking things step by step with new friends. It’s also good to try to accept invitations that you receive and join a club or group that interests you. You can try and use your existing networks of family and friends to meet more people and try to talk to people when you get the opportunity, approaching people yourself when you can. I’ve learnt that you have to try to be non-judgemental and accept that everybody is different, forgive mistakes and try not to be jealous. You have to manage your time so that you can maintain old friendships and make new ones and also realise that generally, friendships take time and effort. Finally, you can use social media to make friends if you’re a bit nervous about meeting people in person, but you have to always be safe and make sure the people that you are speaking to are who they say they are.

In conclusion I would encourage people to get out there and meet new people have fun and enjoy yourself. Making new connections will help you have a good life.

If you want to learn more about making friends you can have a look at the resources that we have made. You can find these by CLICKING HERE or heading to www.mylearningmatters.org.au