[Each of the slides above has its own image description. Slideshow can be paused for ease of reading text. Full transcript at the end of this post, with a downloadable PDF.]
Issues of social inclusion are often persistent throughout a disabled person’s lifespan. Lack of inclusion can be a vicious cycle if non-disabled people are unfamiliar with how to include and interact with disabled people in their community:
1. disabled people are excluded, are segregated to disabled-only spaces, and/or withdraw from community life when they are socially rejected
2. non-disabled people continue to have social spaces and groups that have no disabled people in them, and they never become familiar or intimately connected with disabled people
3. disabled people continue to be rejected or excluded by non-disabled people who are unfamiliar with how to include us
How do we break this cycle? Traditionally, most of the onus has been on disabled people to assimilate and “normalize,” but this not only doesn’t work well, it’s unfair and ableist. Mainstream culture is beginning to realize that non-disabled need to do more to include us without trying to “fix” us, but it’s crucial to understand that acceptance is more than just a feeling. It’s a series of actions, and for most it will require some learning and listening to disabled people.
I have a dream that parents of non-disabled children will begin to talk to their kids about disability, as early and as often as possible. Just as with other issues of discrimination, it’s not enough to trust that your kids will be “nice” – even nice, lovely, kind hearted children may discriminate against or exclude disabled children if they simply do not know how to include them, and don’t understand people who are different from themselves in ways that a child can easily perceive.
This guide is a start. Please please share it with your kids and talk to them about what disability inclusion means. It’s not about pity or charity, it’s about equality.