Ever wondered why there is talk about inclusion everywhere? About including women, about including people of all colour, caste and religion, about including people with any or all disabilities, about including people with a different sexual orientation and/or gender identity, about financial and social inclusion, about inclusion in the workplace. Inclusion, Inclusion, Inclusion. What is it and why is it even important?
Inclusion is essentially the practice of including and accommodating people who are usually excluded due to their race, gender, sexuality, or ability. Inclusion means that all people have the right to be respected, to access education, to realise their potential, to access any products and services and have freedom, equality, and opportunity to participate fully in public life. In short inclusion applies to all parts of life.
But why bother – why is inclusion so important? Because it is the right thing to do. Because it takes us towards a more just and empathetic society. Because EVERYONE should have a place at the table. Because every person has their place in the world and have something to contribute.
And for those who put a greater importance on numbers – inclusion also makes good economic sense. The economic cost of social exclusion can be captured by foregone gross domestic product (GDP) and human capital wealth. Globally, the loss in human capital wealth due to gender inequality alone is estimated at $160.2 trillion. A study by ILO found that economic losses related to the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour force can range from between 3 and 7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
When we hear the word disability, most people think of someone in a wheelchair. But of the entire disabled population – only a small proportion would be using a wheelchair. Disability is much more beyond a physical disability and it is important to understand disability in its entirety if we want to develop inclusive spaces. There are many different types of disabilities that can affect a person’s mental, sensory, or mobility functions. Let’s have a look at the wide range of disabilities that might affect a person:
Physical/ Sensory Disability: This is the easiest to recognize and understand. It could affect a person’s mobility or vision or ability to communicate.
Intellectual Disability: Caused by multiple factors, intellectual disability affects a person’s ability to process information and communicate.
Mental Illness: Mental health conditions are a group of illnesses that affect the mind. They can affect how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people.
Autism Spectrum Disorder: People on the spectrum have difficulty with social interaction and communication and may have fixated interests or repetitive behaviours.
Learning disability: This could be a variety of conditions that affect the development and use of fine motor skills, listening, reading, writing, or mathematical skills. (Remember Taare Zameen Pe?)
Chronic health conditions: Chronic health conditions require ongoing medical attention and may limit daily living.
It is important to understand that no two people with disability will experience their disability the same way even if they are suffering from the same condition. Every one will have their own way to cope and manage.
A peep into the lives of persons living with disabilities and their caregivers
Persons living with disabilities and their caregivers face exclusion in almost every facet of life. At times exclusion happens unwittingly, but sometimes it is deliberate and discriminatory. Often, people do not realise that their actions or behaviours are excluding the disabled and their caregivers. However, equally often, exclusion occurs because of apathy and insensitivity.
Social Isolation: Stereotyping, stigma, and discrimination are challenges people with disability face every day. At its worst stigma attached to disability can result in bullying, isolation and even violence. Even if it is not meant, people unknowingly create situations of exclusion when they do not know how to talk to a person with disability or just simply feel awkward around them. A friend who has a daughter with cerebral palsy laments, “despite having lived in the same residential complex for decades, not one child comes and says hi to my daughter. Even after I ask them”.
Accessibility: Physical barriers are structural obstacles in natural or manmade environments that prevent mobility or access. These environments are inaccessible because of the way they are designed. For instance, absence of ramps, unavailability of assistive devices and technologies, non-adapted means of communication, ineffective lighting that creates poor visibility for people with low vision, equipment that requires someone to stand. (at a recent medical checkup, we couldn’t take my son’s weight because the clinic only had standard weighing machines, and he can barely sit on his own). Some examples of inclusion could be having a sign language interpreter at speaking events, including braille or electronic versions of menus at restaurants, having parking spaces for people with disability, broader pavements that could easily have wheelchairs. Svetha shares some concrete examples in her post on para-athletes.
Healthcare: Persons with disabilities face barriers in all aspects of the health system. They are more likely to receive lower-quality care and less preventive care. For instance, lack of knowledge, negative attitudes and discriminatory practices among healthcare workers; lack of proper training to treat persons with disability, inaccessible health facilities and information; and lack of information or data collection and analysis on disability, all lead to exclusion. All this is more exacerbated in developing/ underdeveloped countries where there is a lack of proper treatment for various conditions.
Education: This is probably one of the biggest areas of exclusion even though we talk about universal access to education. 90 percent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school. Very few schools, if at all have the infrastructure or training to support children with disability. Often, learning disabilities are not even fully understood. Some examples of inclusive education include – a variety of learning formats; provision for having shadow teachers; flexibility in assessments; presence of teaching aids as well as teachers trained to teach students of all abilities and talents
Employment: People with disabilities are far less likely to be employed. Some key reasons would include bias (unconscious or real) in the hiring process; fear of negative judgement; lack of accessibility; absence of reasonable accommodations. Reasonable adjustments or workplace modifications are changes to a workplace to remove barriers that prevent people with disability from succeeding at work. For instance, adjustments might include standing desks, voice recognition software, noise-cancelling headphones, communication devices, and so on. My fellow blogger Arundhati has been able to achieve success at work due to a supportive employer.
Call to Action. How can you make a difference?
Examine your biases: I guess the first thing any one of us can and should do is to examine our own biases – unconscious or not. Do we believe that people with disabilities cannot perform at par? Do we patronize them? Do we feel sympathetic towards them (and not empathetic) and feel they got unlucky in life? Think again. It is not too difficult to become inclusive as I observed in this post of mine.
Understand Disability: Educating ourselves about different types of disabilities, injuries, and mental health conditions is the first step to dismantling damaging stereotypes and breaking down barriers.
Make an effort: Ask yourself which marginalized persons may not feel welcome in your space and make an effort to change that. Make changes in your sphere of influence. Are you an employer – make an effort to make your organization more inclusive, promote a work culture that welcomes all. Are you a policy maker – look at your sphere of influence and bring changes to policy making. Are you and educator – think about more inclusive education. Address exclusion in all the spaces in which you operate and have an influence on.
Raise an inclusive generation: Raise your children to be inclusive. Start young. As a parent we should not only worry about whether our kid is included but more importantly who is our kid including.
It’s going to take all of us coming together to build a truly inclusive world where no one is left behind because of their disability, ethnicity, age, religion, or gender identity. So, #BecomeAnAdvocate for every person who you feel might be getting excluded. Amplify oppressed voices. Start today! And do share this post as far and wide as possible.
This post is a part of “International Day of Disabled Persons” blog hop hosted by Sakshi Varma – Tripleamommy in collaboration with Bookosmia. #IDPD2022Bloghop. Access all posts of this bloghop at https://tripleamommy.com/2022/12/02/idpd2022-lets-make-this-world-a-more-inclusive-space/
Do consider buying my book “Raising Capable Children” that shares hundreds of tips and ideas on bringing up confident children. See below for buying options.
India – Amazon: https://amzn.to/3j3QSrx ; Flipkart: https://www.flipkart.com/raising-capable-children/p/itm2134c13e7108f?pid=9789390267033