question of difference
A liability or
Communities are generally a "one size fits all" approach to social
integration and participation. The community provides for the needs of
the majority of its members. The institution of the community acts as
the mechanism for social order and stability (see Characteristicts
). Anything that is outside of the normal
expectations (social norm) will be seen as different. People outside
the social norm are often marganalised.
1) Communities can become
to behave a certain way. There are
numerous examples where the patterns of behaviour within a community
been influenced by a person, event or activity that involves the whole
community. They can happen in a short time, or over a period of
generations. The attack on the World Trade Centre is a good example
where community attitudes and behaviours were changed in a day. The
motor car, the
telephone, internet and other forms of communication have also changed
the way communities behave. We also see the creation of new communities
cultures built around cult figures, ideologies, music etc. Communities
can change with each new generation where young people find their
own identities, they develop their own language, cultures and customes
that are unfamular to older generations. We see communities that have
to adapt to the changing landscape. The RSL was formed to support
solders returned from the great wars. With the numbers of solders
getting smaller each year the RSL is having to find new ways of staying
relevant to the community as a whole. Religous communities are also
having to look new ways they can stay in touch with the changing
needs of their members.
Communities can also change in a subtle way that is not recognised
until the transformation has happened. These changes can affect whole
communities or communities within communities where members grow up in
environments, and learn particular ways of thinking, they learn the
behaviours, values and roles of their peers. New generations live in
communities that are consumer orientated (consumer societies). Why do
it your self when you can purchase it? We loose the skills
knowledge to be self sufficent, we see the advertising and become
conditioned to a belief that a product is better for us. While the
motor car has opened new horizons, we have become dependant on it in
almost every aspact of our lives. Governments have also contributed to
the reconstruction of communities by becomming service providers or
regulating service sectors. There is a great deal of debate about the
role of governments in todays society. Just as communities of 2nd
and 3rd generation unemployed in England and
Europe have lost the skills to actively engage in a productive work
culture (Their parents and others have not provided the necessary roles
- getting up to go to work etc), and therefore depend (are dependant)
on social welfare, so too, communities have lost the skills (or never
had them) in providing for the needs of people that have a physical or
intellectual disability. The current generation is growing up in a
society where service providers provide direct
in the care of people with disability and
supports these activities. They see the ads, read the literature. Their
families and peers strengthen this culture and so it becomes the social
2) They are generally outside the
experiences of the other members of the community.
Anything that is different to what is expected will elicit a negative
response; I dont know how to deal with the situation, or I dont want to
deal with this situation, or someone else can deal with this situation,
or a conditioned response that has been successful in the past, or
learned from other members, or passed down from generation to
generation and embedded into the culture.
Comunities can also be suspicious of anything new or different. The
beliefs, values, cultures and behaviours (institutions) are valued as a
part of the community and anything that comes along that challenges
these institutions will be resisted. Muslems for example bring their
traditions with them and expect everyone else to respect them. They
live and participate in the community but find that
3) Communities generally cater for the community as a whole, rather
than meeting individual needs.
When designing facilities, services or activities for the community, it
is impracticable to measure everyone in the community, so a standard is
used that takes into account the averages of its members. Buildings are
built to a standard, services are designed to meet certain criteria,
education and recreational activities are designed around the average
person. Any one outside these averages will be disadvantaged. My mother
is fairly independent, but restricted to a wheel chair, and simple
things like going to the movies etc become a logistical headache. I
know that when I buy a pair of pants or a shirt my size it may take me
a while to find the right size because one size in one brand is not the
same fit in
another brand (too big or small). I find the whole process frustrating,
and can somewhat imagine what it would be like for someone with a
severe physical disability to go throughout their whole life like that.
4) There is generally some form of harm, friction or conflict of
between the members. A good example is where a person with a physical
disability tries to do some shopping and cannot access the shop for
various reasons, and complains to the management. The management does
see the need to make any modifications (too expensive etc) and sees the
person as a trouble maker. The person becomes frustrated and angry with
the manager or feels marginalised in not being able to participate in
the activity. The members of the minority group (or others acting on
become aggressive in asserting their rights (and sometimes without
regard to the rights of the others).
We see various minority rights movements actively promoting their cause
community education, protests, demonstrations, riots and
civil wars. The rights of people with disability that are enshrined in
(Disability Service Standards etc) only came about through advocacy and
education, were people made a stand against the community. People can
also be marginalised by
their behaviour, the activities
that they participate in (taking illegal drugs, stealing etc) or
association to a particular ethnic,
cultural or religious group (street gangs, crime gangs, extreme
religious groups etc). There is a perception that
the characteristic is harmfull or dangerous to other members of the
community. Other people that have aids or a particular
contagious disease etc are
also marginalised (or even disenfranchised) to protect the other
members of the community.
5) Its too hard. People that do not have the support networks
necessary for participating in the activities of the community, or may
not be able to cope with other members
of the community become
marginalised. Members that do not have the means (through a disability
or a lack of resources - personal and social) find that it is better to
just stay at home or mix with their own kind.
People who share a characteristic that is rare in the community often
become marginalised because of a lack of resources to support their
needs. Safety and security also become more important than being a part
community. A good example is where famous people are hounded by the
paparazzi, they feel victimised and powerless to the point that their
lives are at risk.
People who are outside this social norm or behave differently to others
are labelled according to the charasteristic that makes them different.
People that have different
behaviours that disrupt the social norm are often referred to as
A liability or an asset?
People that have an intellectual or physical charasteristic that is
outside the social norm are often referred to as "sick", "demented",
"cripple", "spastic." etc
People that have an extreem behavioural deviation from the social norm
(usually in a sexual nature) are often referred to as "deviant".
People outside the social norm have also been labelled as "gifted",
"pioneer" "excentric", "exceptional" etc.
The idea of difference is both a liability as well as an asset to the
community. The trick is finding the ballence.
To much difference in a
that the community can not function as a community. There are no
conrtols or restraints, no order and stability.
Without a form of order and stability ...
... the community can not
... there are no boundaries that define the community,
... the members do not see themselves as a part of the community,
... communication brakes down, or is nonexistent
... the commnity looses its skills and reources,
... the community can not fulfill its needs,
... clubs, teams, groups etc are no longer are a part of
Allows the community to
community has the ability to adapt to new circumanstances that might
otherwise destroy the community. New ways of thinking and diong things
facilitates diversity and trying new things.
When providing the most
care for people with high support
The idea of difference is well known in the field of medicine and human
development. Where there is no diversity in physiological systems
problems appear. Sccial systems are no different in that the generic
(institutional) structure of the community becomes so deformed and
unrecognisable as a social system that it can not exist. The social
system becomes so specalised around a particular characteristic that
other characteristicts inportant to the overall health of the system
fail or disappear.
Communities compete with each other for existing skills and resources,
The more diverse the community is, the more opportunity it has to take
advantage of, and protect, it's own skils and resources. The community
is also more able to take davantage of the skills and resources of
other communities that are a part of it, as well as the communities
that it is a part of.
1) The community is not
person is living, but where the
person participates, shares experiences and has valued relationships
2) People with high support needs (severe disability, aged etc.)
will always need support structures as a part of their lives.
3) The amount of participation in a community (living, education,
employment or recreation) is directly related to the skills and
resources of the person, and, the skills and resources of the
community that the person wishes to participate in.
4) Institutions are going to be around in one form or another
whether we like it or not, It is the way that they are used that is the
5) The institutions of a society towards a particular group
determine the way the group participates in society.
6) The institutions of a particular government department,
profession or service define the way the person is supported within
7) Facilities that support people with high support needs do not
need to be the nursing homes or prisons in the
that they are today, but can become warm inviting community places that
offer a range of services to the community, as well as be a part of the
wider community within that society.
8) People with high support needs are a minority group in our
society, and will have the same problems as other minority groups in
being a part of society.