Community Inclusion for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

A Call to Action for Social Work


  • Jade Presnell Indiana University School of Social Work
  • John Keesler Indiana University School of Social Work



intellectual and developmental disability, community inclusion, human rights, social work, social work practice, social work education, macro social work practice


Many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are isolated and lack meaningful opportunities to participate and develop social networks within their communities. Sharing membership with a community that fosters connection and belonging is essential to well-being. As a human rights profession, social work is uniquely situated to overcome the macro barriers that prevent full community inclusion for people with IDD. However, the experiences and needs of those with IDD have largely been left out of the profession’s discourse on diversity and oppression. This article presents a call-to-action for social work to engage in strategies and solutions to resolve macro barriers to community inclusion, to dismantle the injustices that people with IDD continue to experience, and to move the promise of community inclusion from rhetoric to reality. Social workers can promote community inclusion for people with IDD through a variety of approaches, including using a human rights-based framework, aligning with person-centered planning, fostering evidence-based practices, using participatory action research, increasing disability content in social work curricula, and engaging in community action and advocacy.


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