Think back to your favorite character from a movie, TV show or book growing up. Now, ask yourself: Are they your favorite because you were able to see yourself represented by them in some way?

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Jennifer Hoesing is the Director of Development at DakotAbilities. All month long she’s been joining us weekly to talk about Developmental Disability Awareness month. Today, as we continued the conversation, Jennifer helped us understand why representation is so important when it comes to inclusivity.

Representation of people with disabilities

One in four people has a disability. Only 3.1% of on-screen characters have disabilities. How can we build authentic representation for people with disabilities in our community?

Jennifer Hoesing says the first step is to be authentic in your kindness, empathy and compassion – but don’t sensationalize. The goal is to respect and humanize people who might be different than we are. Examine your intentions and ask yourself, “am I celebrating a person’s accomplishment or pitying this person?” Strive for celebrating others.

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“Remind people that people having different abilities isn’t bad – its just a different experience.”

Jennifer Hoesing, Director of Development at DakotAbilities

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Jennifer also said it’s important to take the opportunity to raise awareness and promote the disability perspective. Are there voices you can amplify or information you can share? She reminded us that there are opportunities to advance inclusion in our communities and in our world. Use what you’ve learned to help close those gaps.

Nothing about us, without us

It means don’t just talk about people and imagine solutions that we think will work best for them – but rather, invite people with disabilities to the conversation. Jennifer said that’s how we learn and grow. That’s how we achieve more authentic representation for people with disabilities in our communities.