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Community Safety Tips for Adults with Disabilities
We all want and deserve to feel safe in our environment. It is a basic human right. Unfortunately, persons with disabilities are around three times more likely to experience abuse from strangers. Risks include physical or psychological abuse, being taken advantage of financially, and even being kidnapped. This is why a focus on community safety for adults with disabilities is so important.
It is especially important for persons with disabilities to be aware of potential dangers in the environment and learn the appropriate skills to stay safe. Whether you are seeking answers for yourself or a loved one, these tips on community safety for adults with disabilities can help with navigating risks in any environment:
It is important to be prepared when entering unfamiliar places or scenarios. This is especially true for a person who might have more difficulty noticing things in their environment or may not be able to react to unexpected dangers. It is a good idea to make sure you always know where the emergency exits (and other resources) are in the environments you spend the most time in. If you are alone when an unexpected emergency does arise, you will know where to go.
Responding Appropriately to Strangers
A key to community safety for adults with disabilities is learning how to respond appropriately to strangers. While you don’t want to create cynicism or mistrust, everyone should learn to detect the warning signs of an abusive person. This is especially important for persons with disabilities, who are more prone to being taken advantage of. Some things to watch out for: strangers asking for money or personal information or suggesting you go to a different/ location with them.
Every adult has the right to say no to ideas and situations with which they feel unsafe. If you are receiving poor treatment from a stranger, you can walk away or get help from a community member. If you are being bullied by a caregiver, you should seek help elsewhere in the community and find someone who can help you obtain available resources.
If you are a person with a disability, you may not understand that there is an appropriate amount of personal space that should be maintained between you and others while out in the community. This, of course, applies to both you and others around you. Just like you would not want someone to get too close to you, you should also avoid getting too close to them. If someone does get too close to you and begins to make you uncomfortable, you have a right to move and/or ask the person to leave you alone. It might be appropriate in some cases to be blunt if the other party is not respecting their wishes.
How we respond to stress determines the outcome in challenging situations. It is a good idea to learn and practice how to stay calm in situations where you feel confronted or harassed. Techniques such as deep breathing as well as an awareness of their rights are examples of ways you can feel empowered and better able to take appropriate action.
While the vast majority of people are good-hearted and wouldn’t think to hurt or take advantage of others, it’s an unfortunate fact that there are people in this world who do. This makes learning and teaching community safety for adults with disabilities so important. An awareness of basic human rights is imperative for every person, especially for those who do not know intuitively what they are entitled to. It is also important to learn or teach techniques for handling harmful or abusive situations if or when they arise.
At RISE, we are here to assist persons with disabilities in connecting with a range of resources and services that enhance their quality of life. If you need assistance in enhancing community safety for yourself or someone you love, contact us for more details.