Most of you who look at my blog know that our work in disability rights focuses on the importance of relationships and social capital. We have worked hard to explore this concept, study, create strategies, share ideas, and promote that rehabilitation would be better off to consider the critical nature of social capital.
Part of the challenge in promoting this message, however, is that there is (was) no credible evidence that showed that social isolation was a serious problem in the disability community. Certainly advocates, family members, and many self-advocates know that loneliness abounds, but the notion had never been adequately examined. This reality prompted the development of an international coalition we titled, The Interdependence Network, (www.buildingsocialcapital.org) and a focused effort to measure community engagement patterns of people with disabilities. Using the "Social Capital Benchmarking Survey," developed at Harvard University by Dr. Robert Putnam, we set out to examine this issue.
I am happy to report to you that our work has completed and we have just published our paper in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, The article is titled: "Somewhere to Live, Something to Do, Someone to Love: Examining Levels and Sources of Social Capital Among People with Disabilities." You can track this paper at: http://cjds.uwaterloo.ca/index.php/cjds/article/view/317: but it shows conclusively how isolated people with disabilities have become. In spite of all the excellent work done by agencies and human service providers, the very people we serve are significantly socially isolated.
We are excited that this paper now sets the ground work for the challenging effort of shifting services from micro to macro efforts designed to help people build more relationships in the community, and especially between people with and without disabilities. So if you have the time, or inclination, take a look at this groundbreaking article and then let me know what you think. Better yet, join the Interdependence Network and help us promote macro change. Together, we can change the world.