At the start of each month, Random Acts launches a brand new #GetKind theme meant to focus its supporters energies toward one specific cause. This month, as our team has done in previous years, we’ve chosen to celebrate those who live with disabilities or chronic conditions that make otherwise simple daily tasks a bit more complicated, in the hopes that — with a little extra kindness and concentrated effort — each one of us can help erase the stigma that comes with those things.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five adults in the United States lives with a disability of some sort, ranging from functional disabilities to disabilities in thinking or memory. And those with disabilities aren’t the only ones who should be aware either. “We are all at risk of having a disability at some point in our lifetime,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said in a press release in July 2015.
Whether you currently live with a disability of your own or you know of someone who does, the emphasis is the same: We can and should all do our part to erase any taboos surrounding disabilities.
What can I do to #GetKind for those living with disabilities?
Helping those with disabilities (including yourself) doesn’t have to be a mammoth task or something that requires very much time or energy. Take these tips to heart this month and go out in your community to spread the message:
- Talk about it. Bringing disabilities to the forefront of important conversations is crucial. If no one speaks out about it, the issues that come with them will go unheard and unnoticed. Take the first step and lend your voice to the discussion, if you’re qualified or live with a disability of your own.
- Give those with disabilities a chance. Shifting tasks or opportunities away from those living with disabilities only serves to ostracize them from society. Give everyone a fair shot and open doors to new organizations and involvement opportunities whenever possible. “I have a brother who was born developmentally delayed,” writes Random Acts inventory manager Stephanie. “It’s because of him that I’ve learned how to be more open minded, less judgmental, and realized that small successes deserve to be celebrated as much as large. He works part time at a local grocery chain, putting away grocery carts and [misplaced grocery items] … he’s able to be as much of a contributing member to society as you and I. Sometimes, we just have to give folks a chance.”
- Spend a day with special needs children or adults. Activities like water balloon toss games, kite flying, drawing, or coloring can be therapeutic for everyone involved and make those who might otherwise be left out feel included and loved. If you have the resources and time, reach out and volunteer to do an act of kindness for the Special Olympics.
- Volunteer at a self-care facility or home. Take friends along with you if the center allows for it and make it a group effort!
- Donate. Organizations like the Disabled Veterans National Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Autism Research Institute, and many, many more all help educate the public on different conditions or disabilities, and often provide resources from which the disabled might benefit. If you don’t have the time to do a big act of kindness, remember that even the smallest donations count. Prefer to see your donations directly at work? Ask a local care center what they need and drop off the requested items if you can.
- Help the helpers — that includes everyone from doctors to nurses to moms and dads. “Parents of disabled children are sometimes overwhelmed with all their duties and everything that society expects them to do,” Barbara Rubel, Random Acts assistant regional representative in Germany, writes. “I think giving them a few nice words and showing them that having a disable child is nothing to be ashamed of is very appreciated.” Aside from just lending a shoulder that they can lean on, you can help all those helpers out there too by…
- … Doing something small for them. Writes events manager Annie Houston, “Bring in trash bins on trash day or simply fetch the lids when they blow away; mow [someone’s] lawn or shovel [their] driveway; vacuum or dust their living areas if you see they need attention…. You can carry or pick up someone’s groceries even.” When someone is sick or has a friend or family member who needs their assistance on a regular basis, even the smallest chores can feel exhausting. So the next time your neighbor’s dog jumps the fence, do them a favor and don’t just grab the little pooch — get them a doggy treat and offer to play with them in the backyard for a bit. It’ll be one less thing your neighbor has to worry about.
- Offer car rides when you know someone might be too tired or stressed to jump in the driver’s seat themselves. Says marketing strategy coordinator Kae Winters, “[Many people] have to rely on public transport or friends [to get to their appointments]. Knowing that they have several people they can call if they absolutely need is great.”
- Be supportive — not exclusionary. Says Sarah Cavanagh, regional representative (Australia, East): “Be understanding: sometimes people with chronic illness have to cancel on you at the last minute or say no to invitations or leave abruptly. Don’t take it personally and don’t stop inviting!”
There are plenty of ways you can help Random Acts #GetKind for those with disabilities, and the people who help them, for this month’s official theme. Are you on board?