If you work in a volunteer or community leadership position, one challenge your organization might face is finding ways to effectively increase diversity. This can include integrating disabled and challenging children and adults into the organization. Their participation is not just important for their own enrichment. Whenever a group diversifies its participation, it becomes stronger by the inclusion of new perspectives. However, group leaders may still face some difficulties when it comes to integrating these populations into more mainstream groups and organizations. The tips below can help you better manage these difficulties while maximizing the benefits to individuals and to the organization.
Consider Degrees of Disability
First, it can help to shift your thinking about working with disabled and challenging individuals. You may think of there being a bright line between a person who has a certain disability and someone who does not, but when you consider it further, you will realize that everyone has limitations even if those limitations do not rise to the level of being considered a disability. By looking on these challenges as a spectrum instead, you can start to see the people you are working with as unique individuals with different sets of skills and weaknesses instead of people with disabilities and people without.
When you allow stress in other areas of your life to become overwhelming, it can affect your work performance. Reducing that stress can improve your performance as a leader in many situations. For example, financial stress can play a huge part. For example, you may be paying back multiple student loans and making the minimum payments on each, feeling like you’ll never chip away to zero. You can look into consolidating those loans to simplify your financial life by combining multiple payments into one. You can review a guide to help you understand what your options are and what the best choice is for you.
One issue you may face when working with disabled people is that many of them are often put into situations in which they are disempowered. This can range from having to wait on an attendant to help them on and off public transportation to having little choice about what tasks they take on and more. Within your organization, you should make an effort to let them identify the areas where they would like to contribute rather than deciding for them. It can be tempting to assume that you know best and try to push them toward an area where you think they will be able to use their strengths, but if you would not take this approach with others, you should not do so with this population either.
Another challenge you may face is integrating individuals who are disabled or challenging into the team. In many situations, this is not as difficult as it may initially seem. Often, once the person has the necessary accommodations in place, working as a team goes fairly smoothly. This will be easier if your organization has an individual whose job duties include ensuring access. Support systems, including the person’s family members and professionals, may also be a good resource at this time.