It is commonly thought that integration from a young age leads to greater independence in adulthood. However, independence may be overemphasized to the point that we forget about the importance of interdependence. We depend on one another for emotional support, assistance in getting new jobs, learning, laughter -- the list is endless. Participation in the following will enable individuals to belong to the circle of their community:
The law says that in order to vote, an individual must be 18, a U.S. citizen, a resident of the municipality in which he/she wishes to register, and not under the guardianship of others.
One can register to vote by mail or in person at the local city/town
hall. When voting, a warden, inspector, or clerk is available to assist
any individual in voting (e.g., if he/she cannot read the ballot). Additionally,
an individual with an evident disability is permitted to bring his/her
own assistant into the voting booth. If the disability is not evident,
a doctor's letter is required. Finally, anyone can request an absentee
ballot, complete it at home, and send it in. If an individual has a disability
that always makes it simpler to vote by absentee ballot, most city/town
offices will accept a letter from a doctor and automatically send an absentee
ballot for every election. Call your local city or town hall for more information.
|Have You Thought About This? (for Voting)
|Have You Thought About This? (for Safety and Protection)
When transitioning from school to adult life, students should consider their interests as well as the changing options for their specific age group. For example, people without disabilities typically do not go to summer camp beyond the age of 14 or 15 unless they become counselors in training (CITs) or counselors. Also, remember that all options that are available to individuals without disabilities are available to individuals with disabilities. Since the passage of the ADA, one need not only consider special activities but one can consider the full array of community options. Finally, don't set limitations by thinking that certain activities would be impossible (e.g., that someone who uses an electric wheelchair can't ski). For every activity imaginable, someone has come up with a way to adapt it with or without the use of specialized equipment. For information about activities or organizations that support specific activities or provide specialized equipment, contact
The Information Center
Fort Point Place
27-43 Wormwood Street
Boston, MA 02210-1606
(800) 462-5015 Voice and TTY
The Spaulding Community Access Line
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital
125 Nashua Street
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 720-6659 (voice)
(617) 722-6244 (TTY)
Because existing options in towns and communities vary so much it is impossible to list all the options here. However, some general tips are listed below and a variety of specific ideas are suggested in "133 Things to Do in Your Free Time."
|133 Things to Do in Your Free Time
go for a walk, build a sand castle, go sledding, make cookies, read
a book to yourself, read a book to someone else, go to a club, go to a
bar, fly a kite, go to a disco, take ballroom dancing lessons, check universities
for ethnic folk dancing events, have a food fight, go for a picnic, build
a clubhouse, dig a flower bed, check out a video from the library, watch
an old movie on TV, make a collage, push a friend in a lake, go biking,
watch the ships come in, go to an art museum, learn to ski, learn to swim,
take a trip to a historical site, go snorkeling, go to a park and relax,
go out for ice cream, go out for dinner, go to the movies, go to a play,
put on a play, try something new, go scuba diving, learn CPR, take a computer
class, join a singing group, take a music lesson, learn amateur radio,
listen to music, go to a concert, hang out with friends, build a model
train, make something out of clay, go to the mall, paint, make dinner for
a friend, play baseball, play soccer, go bowling, shoot a few baskets,
go for a scenic drive, go shopping, try hang gliding, play tennis, go ice
skating, start a game of volleyball, toss a ball, climb a mountain, try
curling, go camping, play shuffleboard, play cards, play a board game,
go to a pet store, volunteer at the humane society, organize a neighborhood
clean-up and picnic, organize your old photos, talk to an older relative,
write a letter, draw a picture, go on a date, talk on the phone, buy a
present for someone, pick wildflowers and arrange them, plant a tree, play
golf, build a snowperson, throw stones into a stream, enter a pie-eating
contest, watch a parade, go to a flea market, go to an auto show, go to
a county fair, celebrate an occasion, go to a transportation museum, go
to an aquarium, travel abroad, travel locally, introduce yourself to your
neighbor, visit a national park, have a barbecue, visit a state park, go
for a run, write a poem, go rafting, go to a baseball game, go to a football
game, drive a remote control vehicle, go to the horse races, watch a marathon,
run a 5K, walk a 5K, play in the rain, take a hot bath, watch a monster
truck show, ride a horse, play with a pet, feed a squirrel, build a birdhouse,
paint a fence, skateboard, get a new haircut, get your nails done, go to
a late late show, go to a record store, learn to fly, take a train ride,
go out for pizza, make a pizza, order take-out food for dinner, put up
a hammock, go out for breakfast, play badminton, swing, make brunch for
a friend, sleep in, go to a zoo, go for a boat ride, work out in a gym,
take an aerobic class, go to a dog show
If developing a friendship does not occur naturally, it may be worthwhile to arrange a meeting between an individual with a disability and other community members. Depending on the age of the individual, this might be done by contacting the local university or local civic or religious organizations, explaining the situation, and asking for the names and numbers of community members who may be interested in meeting someone new. For more information, a good resource is Making School and Community Recreation Fun for Everyone: Places and Ways to Integrate, edited by M. Sherril Moon, available from Paul H. Brookes Publishing, (800) 638-3775.
Finally, it is important to remember that friendships are reciprocal. It cannot always be the individual without the disability who entertains or makes the plans. If an individual has difficulty initiating, someone else may be able to do it for him/her, or the situation could be explained to people with whom he/she is developing relationships.
|Making Friends -- Naturally!
Kathy was 19 when she began taking aerobics classes at the local YMCA. She had been taking beginning classes for almost a year and really wanted to move to a more advanced class but was afraid the movements would be too difficult. The aerobics instructor said she would make sure to explain all the moves clearly and assured Kathy that it would be OK.
Kathy finally joined the class and did find some of the moves to be complicated. With Kathy's permission, the aerobics instructor asked a woman who had been a member at the YMCA since her childhood to keep an eye on Kathy and help her out when needed. With Shaia's assistance, Kathy soon caught on. Shaia began talking to Kathy in the locker room after class and one day they went out for frozen yogurt after their workout. They soon discovered that they both had a passion for pizza and movies and did not live too far from each other. Eventually Kathy and Shaia met on a regular basis to go to the movies or out for dinner. They still take aerobics and have recently signed up for a weightlifting class together.
If the other person says "yes," is it because he or she really wants to accept, or is it because of guilt and of not wanting to hurt the disabled person's feelings?
(excerpted from Dating, p. 283 Spinal Network, Sam Maddox © Spinal Network and Sam Maddox 1990)
This is the dilemma that thousands of individuals with disabilities have to face every day. All too frequently, their questions and concerns are not heard because sex education and discussions about dating or marriage never enter their lives. Relationships are either not thought of as a priority ("She's in a special ed. classyou think she's going to have a relationship?!?") or as a possibility ("He can't even move his legshow can he have sex?!?"). However, it is crucial to provide the same type of sex education to individuals with disabilities as to others, especially in these times when sexual activity occurs at younger and younger ages and the number of individuals infected with HIV is increasing steadily.
As an adult living independently, an individual should know about the consequences of sex so he/she can make an informed decision about birth control. Likewise, he/she should know how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Many schools and/or parents are reluctant to teach children, regardless of their ability, about these topics because it is against their religious or moral beliefs. When making this decision on behalf of a child with a disability, one must remember that as children get older they tend to learn this information from books, television, other children, or other adults after they leave home. Some individuals with disabilities may not merely pick up this information but, like other teens or young adults, may begin to experiment recklessly.
Families, professionals, and well-meaning individuals often discourage individuals with disabilities from dating. This may be a conscious decision (maybe if we don't discuss it, the problem won't arise) or an unconscious one (not taking the advances and/or comments of an individual seriously because the possibility of a relationship never entered one's mind). Individuals with disabilities may find reactions to their desire for a romantic relationship both embarrassing and discouraging. Parents, professionals, and other concerned individuals must be able to separate the individuals from the disability and understand that they have the same desire for love, relationships, sex, marriage, and children as do other members of the population.
Some outstanding resources regarding this topic include:
|Have You Thought About This? (for Recreation, Friendship, and Dating)
Volunteering is a great way to meet others with similar interests and many volunteer activities are tied together with social activities (e.g., a celebratory dinner after cleaning up the park). Additionally, because volunteer activities often attract people who want to "do good," it is relatively easy to develop supports for an individual who will need them to be successful. Volunteering can take many forms, from entertaining children in a homeless shelter to becoming active in local politics. Below is a list of 41 places to volunteer for different types of activities:
The Voluntary Action Center of the United Way of Massachusetts can assist
you in finding out about these and other volunteer opportunities in the
location nearest you. Contact The United Way Voluntary Action Center, 2
Liberty Square, Boston, MA 02109-4844 (617) 422-6775 (statewide). Or contact,
Match-Up Interfaith Volunteers, Inc., 273 Clarendon Street, Boston, (617)
|Commitment to a Cause
homeless shelters, hospitals, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, Senior Centers, churches, Public Libraries, city streets, AIDS Action Committee, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (you do not have to be a mother), synagogues, United Way, Boston Volunteer Center (will give you a number closest to you), political campaigns, Live Theaters (ushers, mass mailing assistance), public radio and television stations, music groups (e.g., community band, choruses, orchestras), museums, historical societies, city recreation departments, Chamber of Commerce, community parks, city hall, homes for seniors, colleges, universities, public schools, tourist information centers, Big Brother /Sister Association, Health Centers, shelters for abused women/children, day care centers, Horticultural Society, counseling centers, Hospice, meal programs for individuals who are homeless/elderly, 4-H clubs, after school programs, state and national parks, Girl and Boy Scouts, community centers.
|Have You Thought About This? (for Volunteering)