Just as access to effective treatment and rehabilitation is vital for people who experience physical, intellectual or psychological conditions, a contemporary understanding of disability sees social inclusion interventions as equally important to counter the disabling impact of marginalisation, discrimination and loss of human rights.
As an organisation dedicated to making a real difference in people’s quality of life and equality of rights, Wellways believes our work must include effective methods to improve wellbeing and to transform our relationships, networks, communities and society to provide equal rights, opportunities and outcomes for people affected by disability.
In collaboration with the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion, we developed Well Together, an approach based in three essentials:
- To ensure people with disabilities can fully participate in the community and claim their rights as citizens. This includes material and physical security, personal autonomy and influence;
- To work with families, carers, friends and kin to build the skills and resources they need as key supports, and to flourish in their own right;
- To advocate for and create communities that actively welcome and value people with disabilities and uphold their rights as equal citizens.
This inclusive approach includes:
- Helping people connect to local groups, employment opportunities, or to maintain and/ or discover relationships;
- Offering resources and advocating to community groups, services, workplaces, and other settings to assist them to become more open and accessible to people with disabilities;
- Advocacy for change on exclusionary or discriminatory practices;
- Supporting individuals and families to increase their self-advocacy and capacity to develop social connections.
A focus on active citizenship is at the heart of the approach. Being connected and having a sense of belonging is fundamental to everyone’s experience of a full and rewarding life. Communities also benefit enormously from the diversity and richness of ideas, experiences and knowledge that people with a disability bring to cultural, social and civic life.
Achieving this means directing our efforts to community transformation – by engaging community members as allies; creating welcoming spaces in community; and building and supporting a grassroots advocacy movement in which the people who are most affected by disability can join their voices, step into leadership roles and have real influence at local, state and national level.
The Well Together approach draws on the best contemporary evidence of what supports inclusion and wellbeing and is fundamentally informed by the expertise of people with lived experience of disability. It takes a systems approach to improving wellbeing and citizenship; working in partnership with individuals, family and friendship networks, local communities and government to achieve greater equality of outcomes for people affected by disability.
The Well Together Principles
- Emphasise and advocate for community inclusion as an equally critical intervention alongside treatment and rehabilitation
- Ensure opportunities opportunities for inclusion are available to everyone who experiences a disability, even if others believe they are "not yet ready"
- See people as unique individuals with strengths and gifts to offer, and not defined by their impairments
- Support people to take the lead in making choices and decisions about things that are important to them, including managing any risks that may be involved
- Work with people to explore multiple areas of life and community spaces that interest them, not restricted by what others believe is possible or desirable
- Promote participation that happens in the same places everyone else in the community can access, and maximise opportunities for connection with others
- Offer evidence-based support technologies that enable participation including peer support, engaging families and friends, and natural support development
- Support families and natural supports to sustain their role, and to pursue wellbeing and inclusion in their own right
- Identify and address environmental barriers when working with people, including poverty, discrimination and accessibility issues
- Work directly with community members and groups to establish welcoming and mutually supportive spaces for all people.