Inclusive. It’s a word that’s been buzzing around for some time now.
It inspires awards and congratulations for businesses who hire disabled people. It makes “honorary” teammates out of disabled students. It begets news stories about a “Good Samaritan” who helps a wheelchair user stuck on a snowy sidewalk. It results in those memes that shows a smiling kid with crutches winning a race with the quote “the only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
Of course, the truth is, none of this is an indication of true inclusiveness. Sure, these gestures make non-disabled folks feel good, but in fact all of these things are just a product of what people think inclusiveness looks like. They are veils over the realities that people with disabilities face every single day.
So then, what does true inclusiveness actually look like?
For starters, inclusiveness is not a one-off “act of kindness” it should happen every day. In a perfect world, it would happen without a second thought.
It involves actual conversations with disabled people, that are not of the trite “I admire you” variety.
It involves inviting people with disabilities to the lunch table, to a sporting event, to a social engagement, not as an act of charity, but in the effort to know them, and call them a friend.
It involves checking assumptions about disability and listening to and respecting the preferences and needs of each individual.
It involves an understanding of the wide spectrum of differences among people with disabilities and their chosen paths.
It involves recognizing ableism in yourself and others and putting a stop to it.
It involves seeing the uneven sidewalks, non-existent curb cuts, stooped entrances, narrow bathroom stalls and wondering how a person using a wheelchair would navigate around these obstacles.
It involves acknowledging that the world is not designed to readily accommodate disability and that it’s time for a change.
Most importantly, it involves you asking an activist with a disability how you can be a part of the movement to create a truly inclusive society.
Don’t know where to start? Twitter is a great place to discover people in the movement. Start by perusing these hashtags:
The truth is, until society (and indeed each individual within it) changes the way they look at disability there is little chance of making significant progress.
What will you do today to ensure a more inclusive society?