Living Your Moments Well With Other People
When we talk about building and enriching stronger, more inclusive communities, there are many different ideas, theories, and formulas for how to cultivate, nurture, and sustain them effectively. These efforts can certainly be challenging, complicated—even difficult.
But what if they weren’t? What if our collective efforts as professionals, parents, self-advocates, supporters, and allies, could be strengthened and improved simply by being more familiar with each other? What if we could build better connections, networks, and relationships simply by being more involved and participating in more activities together?
Could it really be that simple?
Well, that’s exactly the framework that Tim Vogt, Danyetta Najoli, and Jill Mays set out to discuss and explore in a recent conversation highlighted in the latest episode of OCALI’s Inspiring Change podcast.
Tim and Danyetta both work for Starfire, a Cincinnati-based organization that has been building better lives for people with disabilities since 1993. Jill Mays is a development and community relations coordinator for PSU in Lebanon, Ohio.
“If you’re in the space of being interested in building a more inclusive world, either through your work or through your family or through your community or for yourself, remember that strategically, it’s not all going to happen at once,” shares Vogt. “It’s going to take small steps.”
Tim, Danyetta, and Jill have been studying the building blocks of psychology and research around inclusion, including principles related to familiarity, quality connections, and shared activities. These principles don’t apply only to people with disabilities, but really to everyone.
The Familiarity Principle
The familiarity principle states that, as human beings, we prefer people and things that we see or experience frequently. It could be someone you see every day on your way to work, for example.
“Basically, when you break this principle down, we’re talking about our comfort zones,” says Mays. “Whether it’s people with disabilities or people of different ethnicity, representation really does matter—in the media or just in our lives. It makes a difference if we see people and things around us, because it makes us more comfortable and more familiar.”
Quality Connections Principle
Simply put, this principle explores the characteristics of high-quality connections, including a person feeling respected, helped, and engaging in ways that are creative or playful.
Najoli emphasizes the importance of quality connections and inclusion by believing that a person’s quality of life is almost in direct correlation to the person supporting them.
“I would love for people to be trained and to learn continually and know that it’s not just a static way to be, but you have to continue to learn and grow,” shares Najoli. “And whatever it is for you that gets you into a space of continually learning. It can be personal coaching, life coaching, or growth and development work—anything to keep a person stretching and growing.”
Shared Activities Principle
This principle is designed to build trust and connections through shared interests and activities.
“For me, I’ve seen when shared interests help level the playing field and people just take off their titles and labels,” explains Najoli. “During the pandemic, I saw this in my neighborhood where we put together a street concert. I thought that was a great way to endorse what I love doing because I was willing to spend time to organize it and gather the artists, and it was great seeing people just play together and enjoy music.”
Connecting the Principles
“What if the way to build a connected life was through these small, high-quality experiences that people got to see each other over and over, and they were respecting each other, helping each other, and playing around to invent really cool experiences,” says Vogt. “It just feels like we’ve got a huge opportunity in front of us.”
Sensory-Friendly Morning Offered
August 3, 10am-1pm
The Ohio State Fair—from the rides and attractions to the concerts, shows, and the ever-famous food, the Fair is an annual event and tradition for thousands of Ohioans. At this mecca of endless fun and entertainment, fairgoers experience the bright lights, loud sounds, and distinguishable smells—you know the ones, the mouth-watering smells of funnel cakes and french fries to the unique scents coming from the animal barns. While these sensory-stimulating features may not interfere with most fairgoers’ experience, others’ senses may be heightened by these things, impacting their overall Fair experience.
To ensure all Ohioans can positively experience the Fair, OCALI has partnered with the Ohio Expo Commission to host the Fair’s Sensory-Friendly Morning on Wednesday, August 3 from 10am– 1pm. During these designated hours, fairgoers can experience a sensory-friendly morning where the lights will be lowered and the sounds turned down. For those looking to take a break, they can relax in the OCALI Quiet Room. Located in the Ohio Building, this quiet, air-conditioned space will offer a variety of low-tech and mid-tech solutions to support a variety of sensory needs, including fidgets, weighted lap pads, sensory processing toys, and more. The Quiet Room will be operational every day of the Fair, with additional enhancements provided by OCALI on Sensory-Friendly Morning.
“By turning down the lights and sounds for just a few hours on a weekday morning, we hope to make the Fair a more pleasurable experience for those who need a break from exploring the many activities of the Fair,” shares Alicia Shoults, Assistant General Manager, Ohio Expo Center & State Fair.
In addition to the Sensory-Friendly Morning, the Fair will build upon its existing accessibility efforts and feature additional wheelchair/mobility charging stations and technology to connect people who are blind or have low vision to an agent who can help with navigation. These efforts are all designed to expand access and ensure inclusivity.
“At OCALI, we believe in a world where everyone deserves access to their community,” explains Shawn Henry, Executive Director at OCALI. “These features at the Fair help to create a common experience with unique considerations that allow greater access for all.”
OCALI and other organizations, including Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, have partnered closely with the Ohio Expo Commission this year to carefully plan these features to improve accessibility.
“When our mission and vision of inspiring change and promoting access aligns with our partner’s mission of community engagement, we allow everyone the opportunity to live their best lives,” shares Henry. “To make change happen, we need to continue to engage in partnerships where people are willing change the status quo, and that’s what this partnership with the Ohio Expo Commission has been about.”
Shoults agrees. “We’re thrilled to have such a strong partnership with the experts at OCALI. They have been instrumental in providing guidance that will help us to ensure that the Fair can be enjoyable for as many Ohioans as possible.”
OCALI is Hiring!
We are a mission-driven team committed to promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities and those who live with, love, and support them. Learn more about our open positions for: Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coach, Instructional Design Specialist, Accessibility Support Specialist, and Clearinghouse Librarian.
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What’s New at OCALI
IWGA Registration: July 22
Join Ohio’s Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA) as they share the latest updates to Pursuing Quality Lives (PQL). These updates were based on input from autistic Ohioans, their family members, and stakeholders. The webinar will feature people that participated in the development of PQL as well as a panel of State leaders sharing how agency efforts will support the priorities of people with autism and their families.
Sensory-Friendly Day at The Ohio State Fair: August 3
OCALI is proud to partner with the Ohio Expo Commission to host a sensory-friendly morning on August 3 from 10am-1pm. Explore the midway with lights and volume turned down, ride the rides without flashing lights and music, and take a break in a soothing quiet room.
Band Together Central Ohio: August 14
Join us for an Autism Open Mic to celebrate the talents of our Central Ohio Autism community. Individuals with autism are invited to participate at The Gahanna Sanctuary on the second Sunday of every month from 2-5pm. Registration is recommended.
November 2022-March 2023: Educational Identification of Students with ASD Virtual Training Series
This introductory training series with 10 two-hour sessions is designed for school-based evaluation teams that want to learn more about the process for educational identification of students with ASD. Registration for next year’s series is now open. Space is limited.
Don’t miss your chance to join over 15,000 of your peers and colleagues from all 50 states + 50 countries! Register now for OCACLICONLINE 2022 – coming November 15-18 to a laptop, tablet, or smartphone near you! Closing out the 2022 fiscal year? There’s no better time to register! Send your whole team and amplify the impact across your organization or school
2022 Innovation Spotlight Series – Recordings Available
This spring, OCALI partnered with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to produce a series of on-demand videos that showcase innovation around the state in person-centered planning, community membership, and employment opportunities for people with disabilities across Ohio.