Be a champion for people with disabilities

By Carol L. Tabas, Independent Real Estate Professional and Chair, United Way’s 21 and Able Initiative

As the parent of four wonderful young adults, I have tried to encourage each of them to always look outside their immediate circle and see what more they could be doing to share of themselves in service to others. I believe that when you give of yourself, you get so much more in return, and it’s a win/win situation for all.

My children grew up having a sibling with a disability. This gave them insight into a world that most people don’t understand. As a result, they feel comfortable connecting with and supporting those with disabilities. Many people typically feel this interaction would be outside their comfort zone.

An interaction with a person with a disability is easier than you might think. A kind smile and a “hello,” along with a patient response, is a great starting point. You may be pleasantly surprised that this simple act could be the start of something amazing.

People with disabilities are simply people. In our community, we are blessed to have so many organizations working together to support them but those organizations, and the people they serve, need our help.

Here are three ways you can be a champion for people with disabilities:

  1. Welcome people into your community.When I was growing up, I never saw people with disabilities in my community. It is so important for us to have integrated settings in our communities. Visibility is key. When we let people with disabilities know they are welcome in our businesses, our schools, and our homes, we can break down barriers.
  1. Foster new friendships.Finding an opportunity to befriend a person with disabilities is paramount. By always treating people with disabilities as equals, we can foster meaningful relationships and begin to erase the stigma of a disability. One-on-one relationships can do so much for your life, and theirs.
  1. Give of your time and talent.There are so many wonderful organizations in our community, from United Way to the local school districts, and they could use our support. By advocating for equal employment and education for people with disabilities, we can create change and make progress for a more inclusive world.

United Way is leading the charge when it comes to working for people with disabilities. Through their 21 and Able initiative, Career Transition Project, and the #IWantToWork campaign, they have worked alongside Pennsylvanians with disabilities to help them thrive. Recently, United Way was honored with a national award from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) at its annual AUCD for All Gala for work through its 21 and Able initiative.