Building True Community through Inclusion
By Leila Wright, Webinar Facilitator
The term “disability inclusion” is everywhere but what does it really mean?
20 years ago, when I first started working with people with disability, I really didn’t know what was appropriate. I didn’t have much experience with people with disability and, at that time, I didn’t have close family members with disability to learn from. I was also a bit scared that I would do or say “the wrong thing.”
In one of my first interactions with a person in a wheelchair, I knelt on the floor so I could look him in the eye. He admonished me to “stand up straight.” I understood that this man didn’t want me to treat him any differently than I treated anyone else. It was a good lesson, delivered kindly, that I was grateful to receive.
I have been fortunate over the years to learn directly from people with disability about how to address many of the barriers that that prevent people from being included and fully participating in their lives. From treating a person with disability differently to the lack of accessible entries to buildings, I’ve seen how we exclude people with disability and how this exclusion is the actual disability. I’ve seen how we tell people how brave they are and expect them to inspire non-disabled people with their courage and positive attitude. This too is disabling as it is a barrier to genuine inclusion. As writer, comedian and disability advocate, Stella Young said, “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille.”
The social model of disability is the acknowledgement that disability is a result of the barriers in the physical, attitudinal, communication and social environment that prevent people from being including and fully participating in their community. In 2014, NSW passed the Disability Inclusion Act to make communities more accessible to people with disability now and into the future. This is a great step to building genuinely inclusive communities for all.
This Disability Inclusion Webinar provides a good start on how you can confidently include people with disability in your volunteer work, community, and life. Further, the resources below will support this knowledge and start you on a path of genuine inclusion for all.