A New Institute Is Born, Because Including People With Disabilities Takes Skill

A New Institute Is Born, Because Including People With Disabilities Takes Skill

We often ask ourselves what would happen if our leaders were skilled at including people with disabilities and their families as full participants in the lives of their communities?

Good things.Things consistent with Jewish values, history and tradition.

But including people with disabilities in every aspect of life won’t happen unless we make it happen. Inclusion of people with disabilities is part law, part values and part ability.

That’s why we created the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware. The Consortium trains people working in organizations whose mission is focused on disability issues. They deliver services and supports; they develop policy; they engage in individual and systemic advocacy and they raise money with the goal of including people with disabilities in their local communities.

Now, thanks to the Ruderman Family Foundation, the newly created Jewish Leadership Institute on Disability and Inclusion will provide this kind of training specifically for Jewish organizations: both those who already do welcome people with disabilities, and those who want to do so. The new institute is a partnership between Shelly Christensen, the founder of Inclusion Innovations and author of “The Jewish Community Guide on Inclusion for People with Disabilities” and the existing program at Delaware.

We will help leaders at the full range of Jewish institutions – from community centers to employment agencies to day schools – who are trying to make changes, and we will support them when they are already doing inclusion and want to grow it. We will provide guidance and support for communities around the world by exposing them to best practices in the disability field.

The first Jewish Leadership Institute on Disability and Inclusion will be held in Baltimore in early December, 2013. Additional institutes will follow.

“The establishment of this institute ensures that Jewish leaders will be engaged in the vital discussion of how to include people with disabilities into our communities,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “The full inclusion of all community members is critical for the survival of the Jewish people. Our foundation is proud to work in tandem with the nationally recognized Leadership Consortium and further our ultimate goal of raising awareness and creating a fully inclusive Jewish society.”

That says it all.

Steven Eidelman is the H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Human Services Policy and Leadership at the University of Delaware. Professor Eidelman is a former Executive Director of The Arc of the United States and currently also serves as the Executive Director of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. He is a past President of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) and is Senior Advisor to the Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics. He is on the Board of The Open Society Institute’s Mental Health Initiative, based in Budapest. His recent efforts have focused on leadership development for practicing disability professionals and on implementation of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, focusing on deinstitutionalization.

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