From the Editor
by Vicki Leeper
Inclusion is a big word we throw around in the disability community. Basically we are not after special treatment, just the same access that everyone else has. Inclusion builds strong communities, creates a sense of belonging for everyone. That investment is typically returned several-fold as people will give back where they feel they are respected and appreciated.
That means that not just businesses and schools need to be accessible. We are talking programs too. If you are teaching a workshop, are you prepared if a participant attends who is deaf? Do you know where to go to find an interpreter? If you offer swim lessons, are you prepared if a blind or visually impaired student signs up? For inclusion to work, it means your community is available for EVERYONE. That’s the keyword here. Because everyone deserves the benefits of the class you are teaching, the ability to get into the great, neighborhood playground equipment, access to the best restaurant people are talking about, drivers ed training with hand controls, even access to books in the library.
This is what CIL’s are all about. Working with businesses, schools and government to make sure the programs are inclusive. They needn’t be separate – just inclusive. We can provide technical assistance to anyone about how to make something accessible AND inclusive.
Together, centers move the needle by increasing the number of businesses and agencies which have formed inclusion policies. They are prepared to include anyone, regardless of their disability. We take great pride every time we take a step to increase the overall access, be it a better marked parking spot, resources for sign language interpreters, paved trails in green spaces.
But there is still so much more we can do. People say that inclusion is a choice. But it is also a practice. Inclusion is an opportunity for innovation. An internationally recognized advocate for equal opportunities for people with disabilities, Ms Girma, who is Deafblind, shared some critical words of wisdom. She said that “disability never holds anyone back…..the barriers that exist are created by society, and it’s up to every single one of us to work to remove those barriers.”
Let’s resist the urge to let labels define what we and others can and cannot do. Instead, let’s be open to creating innovative solutions that invite everyone in. What can we move? What can we interconnect in different ways for the first time? What can we alter or change? Let’s shift and expand our thinking, because anything is possible.