The concept of community comes from having something in common. A common place, interest, distinction or the like. Communities are thus a form of order. Without them there would perhaps not be chaos, but things would certainly be more chaotic. T.S. Eliot went so far as to state:

“What life have you if you have not life together?
There is no life that is not in the community”

People with disabilities and the Government agree that they should be supported to participate fully in the community. But what does “community participation” mean?


What is “the community”?
There are many different ideas about what “community” means, and it is often seen as the opposite of living in an institution. The three important points to think about are that “the community” involves

  • a place where other people do things
  • other people to do things with and get to know
  • a feeling of belonging

For adults with an intellectual disability, community participation usually means doing things with non-disabled people, not only with other people who have an intellectual disability. It can involve lots of different areas of our lives – school, work, leisure, sports, getting “out and about”, friendships, helping other people.

The community itself is not always welcoming, however, and sometimes adults with disabilities are lonely or teased or do not know what to do in some situations. To make community participation work for everyone, the community may need to change too.

What does the Research tell us about Community & People with an Intellectual Disability?

  • Some people who live with their families often have only a few friends and do not get out into the community very much.
  • People who live independently or with just a few other people tend to get out more and have more friends, than those who live in homes with five or more other people.
  • Some people are more able to join in community activities than other people
  • Even when people are involved in community activities they still may not meet other people much and find new friends.
  • Older people are likely to be more lonely and have fewer opportunities to get out and join in community activities.
  • Many of the activities people are involved in, happen in  groups of adults with an intellectual disability.
  • Many adults are not given choices about where they would like to go and what they would like to do in the community.
  • Adults who are given more choices and responsibility in their lives, are more likely to be involved in the community.
  • It is important for parents, families and staff to encourage and support adults to be involved in community activities.

How can we Support Individual’s with an Intellectual Disability participate in their communities?

  • Encourage & Support people to make real friendships and nurture them. Adults with an intellectual disability are often in the community, but not really a part of the community, but out on the “fringes”. They often need staff support to help them to join in and make friends in the community. Friendships may also need help to last.
  • The Brothers of Charity Services Roscommon are committed to supporting people to be full & equally participants in their own communities. This poses many challenges for the organisation and staff. However, the services are constantly trying innovative and new ways to support people in a meaningful & respectful way.

Useful Community Links:

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