Understanding Social Circles

According to Derrick Dufresne, (Five Star Quality Defined, October 2008, Dufresne and Mayer), successful community inclusion can be measured by the amount of people one has in his or her social circles. Social Circles, something we all have in our lives to varying degrees, can be thought of as concentric rings, similar to those of a dart board or bulls-eye, with each of us as our own center. Each ring, radiating outward, represents a different level of support or social connection. The order of these circles, reducing outward the level of connection, or intimacy, might be defined as follows: Consumer-Family-Friends-Acquaintances-Contacts-Agencies-etc.

The social goal for each of us, for each citizen, would be similar to that of scoring on a dart board or bulls-eye: it is most beneficial to get as close to the center as possible. Similarly, the closer a person in our lives can be placed to us in these rings of influence, the more this person benefits us in our lives. With darts, though, as in life, building one’s grouping close to the center is always more difficult to achieve.

A Social Reality Check

Studies show that the average non-disabled person in community can count around 150 people in his or her various social circles, a number that falls in line with British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar’s “Rule of 150″ which speaks to the capacity of the human brain to formulate and maintain relationships.

Unfortunately, studies also show that for individuals living with significant disabilities, the number of people in his or her social circles is around 15. This number, merely 10% of the norm, accentuates the problems created by communities that fail to provide natural and equitable opportunities for people with disabilities to live and interact freely. Additionally, these individuals state that their closest “friends” are often those people in their lives who provide them with daily support, in essence, those “paid” to be there.

For this disparity to change, community and it’s views toward disability needs to change. In an effort to build more inclusive, understanding communities, the Ability Center is working to build community partnerships with organizations in the Toledo and northwest Ohio area. If you would like to know more or, more importantly, play a part, individually or organizationally, please contact us at the number above or email Dan Wilkins, Director of Special Projects.