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#EpilepsyAwareness: Importance of social inclusion for persons with epilepsy

Readers Lounge By Fredrick Beuchi Mboya
Unfortunately, many people with epilepsy unnecessarily experience life quite differently (Shutterstock)

Some people with epilepsy identify themselves as having a disability. To be healthy, all individuals, including those with disabilities, must have the same opportunities to take part in meaningful daily activities.

These opportunities may be determined by how inclusive a community is in helping people with epilepsy. People with epilepsy, for instance, can engage in given activities that lower their chances of having seizures and might reduce the impact of their epilepsy.

Many people with epilepsy unnecessarily experience life quite differently. They may not have a “sense of presence” in the community and may not have access to activities they prefer or desire.

People with disabilities are often not acknowledged in the community, or if they are, it may be in a negative way. Too often, these people do not have close friends with whom they can share their desires, time and lives.

Being socially included means that a number of things are present in your life. Social inclusion for persons living with epilepsy means that they:

  • Experience a sense of belonging
  • Are accepted (for who they are) within their communities
  • Have valued roles in the community
  • Are actively participating in the community
  • Are involved in activities based on their personal preferences
  • Have social relationships with others whom they chose and share common interests
  • Have friends

When people experience some or all of these conditions in their lives, they are more likely to be happier and healthier. In fact, social inclusion is an important “determinant of health” – without inclusion, people are more likely to experience poor health, particularly mental health; loneliness, isolation, and poor self-esteem.

How does this lack of social inclusion for people with disabilities get addressed? There are many possible pathways for inclusion.

As a society we can make it better by opening up schools and workplaces to people with different kind of disabilities including epilepsy.

While there are still many barriers to fair employment, forward thinking workplaces are slowly recognizing the real contributions that people with disabilities can make. Recreation holds particular promise for achieving true inclusion because of the meaningful connections that recreation can facilitate.

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