I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about inclusion, in a range of situations, for those who are disabled. These thoughts are a result of a number of events that have impacted me personally or impacted others I know who are disabled. I am aware that inclusion is not taught and rarely is it modelled, both these things have to change.
In education: inclusion is not just about being mainstreamed. This was a prevailing thought at one time. So much so that there was a movement to force the abandonment of special classes. However mainstreaming, as someone once said, can actually be main dumping. Inclusion is being included sure, but it is more than that – it is being accepted, listened to, and having accommodations made so that FULL inclusion becomes a reality. It’s allowing inclusion so the person can fully participate in their education which isn’t just at early childhood but includes primary, intermediate, high school, and the years beyond that. It’s not about pathways that lead to exclusion.
It’s about providing opportunities to be included beyond what the disabled person may have hoped or dreamed of.
In health: inclusion is about having our voices heard when it comes to both our health and our disabilities. It means not having health professions deferring to support workers but listening to the voices of the disabled, we know our health issues, most of us are more than capable of articulating them. Inclusion is about not being patronised to , not being ignored, not being dismissed. It’s about listening to the many ways we may communicate: from voices, to AAC, to behaviours. It’s more than just hearing the voices it’s about listening and finding ways to accommodate views which may differ. It’s about finding ways to meet the needs of disabled. It’s definitely not about pathways that lead to seclusion.
In organisations: inclusion is not just being part of an organisation. It is also not just being accepted (which can mean just being tolerated). Inclusion at this level is about being valued for the contribution you can make, about having your contribution actively sought out, about listening to ideas that may be different from your own. It can be about valuing diversity of people, views, and ideas. It can be about sitting around the table and looking at the voices that are missing and should be there.
When it comes to disability it may mean non-disabled having to make concessions, and going the extra mile to ensure those voices are heard.
Some may think this is PC gone mad. But it is actually about rights cemented in law that New Zealand has signed up to. The UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and the Rights of the Child (NZ is failing that one). It’s about the implementation and action plan connected to the Disability Strategy. It’s not just about funding, it’s about resourcing which can be so much wider than just money. It’s about people.
So inclusion is about people, all people, being given the chance to fully participate and contribute and having their participation and contributions acknowledged, valued, about those things not just being tolerated and not talked about behind their backs.
Disabled people want to make a valid and valuable contribution in all spheres of the world.
Inclusion really is nothing about us, without us. If you are serious about inclusion, don’t shut us out, don’t attempt to justify shutting the door, don’t attempt to speak over our ‘voices’, don’t dismiss us. I hope we can journey on the path to full inclusion together, because society will be the better for it.