Designing effective support for community participation for people with intellectual disabilities

Report for Disability Research and Data Working Group
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Community participation Intellectual disability People with disability Social inclusion Australia

Community participation of people with intellectual disabilities is a longstanding policy aim and a key objective of the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme. Despite significant investment since the 1980s, it remains elusive for many people with intellectual disabilities, whom researchers continue to describe as being present rather than participating in communities. The reasons for limited progress are often associated with a lack of conceptual clarity about the purpose of community participation and the limited evidence about effective interventions. Community participation takes many forms as individual success stories demonstrate (see for example However, such narratives hide underlying assumptions about types of participation, strategies to facilitate it, skills of support workers and supporting organisational structures. This type of knowledge is important in understanding good practice in order to replicate it and design person-centred interventions or programs to support community participation. This is especially the case for the many people with intellectual disabilities who do not have resourceful families or strong informal networks that support participation. 

The overarching aim of this study was to develop conceptual clarity and a typology of different types of community participation and interventions to support it, to inform decisions about funding, planning and purchase of person centred supports to facilitate community participation for people with intellectual disabilities. 

The research questions were: 

  • what are the key elements of community participation for people with intellectual disabilities; 
  • what are the diverse ways in which community participation is manifested;
  • what staff practices and organisational strategies are effective in supporting community participation of people with intellectual disabilities, and; 
  • what are the implications of the findings for the disability sector in terms of service models, organisational forms and the disability workforce?

This report is funded with assistance from a funding grant offered under the National Disability Research and Development Agenda, jointly implemented by disability representatives from Commonwealth, State and Territory governments. 

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