Three Options to Connect with Your Community

Woman with a developmental disability on a virtual video call

Community participation is an important part of living a happy, meaningful life. Whether it’s giving back, attending local events, joining a club or team, or just being able to browse the neighborhood shops, people need to feel connected to their community—they need to feel they belong.

People with disabilities already face additional barriers to community participation, from a lack of inclusive programs to accessibility issues to a lack of understanding about disability. And COVID-19 has only added to the challenge.

But it’s still important—perhaps now more than ever—to keep your loved one active and engaged with the outside world. Here are a few ideas:

Volunteer or host a fundraiser

Maybe you can’t get hands-on in the community, but you can still make a difference. Get a group of friends and family to collect items you can donate to a local organization or food pantry. Or use the power of social media to raise money for a cause you believe in. Not only will the project bring you together with others who share your values, but you’ll feel good knowing you supported your community. Make sure you pay an in-person visit to the organization when it’s safe to do so again.

Sign up for e-Buddies

e-Buddies is a free program designed to create social inclusion for people with IDD. All you have to do is sign up and you’ll be matched with a pen pal with whom you can enjoy a one-on-one email friendship. Bonus: being an e-Buddy will help promote technology literacy and increase confidence communicating online, both of which are important skills for students and jobseekers.

Find an online class or club—or start your own

There are a wealth of opportunities to connect with people who share your interests online. For instance, those who enjoy fitness can sign up for virtual exercise classes designed for people of all abilities. Or you can check out this disability-themed online book club. Cooking, music, crafting—you name it, you can probably find it. Or, if nothing fits the bill, start your own club with a friend or family member. Even if you’re only able to meet virtually, you’ll still benefit from sharing a hobby with likeminded people, and the skills and knowledge you’ll gain will be just as beneficial offline.

Staying connected to your community—whether in person or online—is an important part of living a healthy, engaged life. And even though COVID-19 has brought extra challenges, with a little creativity, you and your loved one can find ways to stay active in—and even continue building—your own community.