Are Our Communities Really Inclusive for People with a Disability?

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is the process whereby every person who wishes to (irrespective of their age, disability, gender, religion, sexual preference or nationality), can access and participate fully in all aspects of an activity or service in the same way as any other member of the community.

Unfortunately, inclusion is often confused with integration especially in the life of a person with a disability.  Integration is effectively the physical presence of a person with a disability. Examples of this can be seen with specialized classes in an educational setting or segregated group activities where only people with a disability are participating in the group.

True inclusion is including people with disabilities in everyday activities and encouraging them to have roles similar to their peers who do not have a disability. This involves more than simply encouraging people; it requires making sure that adequate policies and practices are in effect in a community or organization.

Inclusion should lead to increased participation in socially expected life roles and activities – such as being a student, worker, friend, community members, patient, partner or parent. Socially expected activities may also include engaging in social activities, using public resources such as transportation and libraries, moving about within communities, receiving adequate health care, having relationships and enjoying day-to-day activities.

The rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has heightened interest in issues facing people with disability, their families, and carers.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) principles recognize that people with disability have the right:

·to realize potential for physical, social, emotional and intellectual development

·to participate in and contribute to social and economic life to the extent of their ability

·to exercise choice, including reasonable risks in the pursuit of their goals

An inclusive community:

  • Does everything that it can to respect all its citizens, gives them full access to resources, and promotes equal treatment and opportunity.
  • Works to eliminate all forms of discrimination.
  • Engages all its citizens in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
  • Values diversity.
  • Responds quickly to racist and other discriminating incidents.

So what should Community Members Do to Encourage Inclusion?

Realize that People with Disabilities are Humans Too
Sometimes people can forget that a person with a disability is first and foremost a human being with desires, talents, skills, heartache, and loss, just like everyone else. At the basis of every person are the similarities we all share for being human, and that includes people with disabilities.

View the Disability Community as a Valuable Consumer
It’s still progressive to see the disability community as a targeted audience and consumer. The disability sector is the most underrepresented when it comes to marketing products While part of this stems from the fact that there is a great deal of diversity within the disability community, those consumer segments (and their families) still have significant purchasing power. We’re slowly seeing models with disabilities incorporated in fashion and marketing commercials, but this needs to become the norm, and not seen as future-forward thinking.

Employ People with Disabilities — Encourage ambition and the desire to work
The disability community is still discriminated against at work from being refused a job or denied a final interview. But when it comes down to it, employers need to see a person, including his/her disability, as an asset and not a potential liability. Local Councils and Government need to lead the way in this field by truly demonstrating their commitment to their policies on equal employment opportunities and showcasing how successful and valuable people with a disability are in the workplace.

Promote Social Inclusion in Schools
Our overall cultural consciousness on how we treat and interact with a disability needs to change, beginning in elementary schools. We need to celebrate our peers for their differences. If this is taught at a young age, less discrimination and more social inclusion will occur. Having kids with and without disabilities learning side-by-side helps everybody appreciate the talents and gifts all kids bring with them.

Improve Disability Access

The barriers to the full participation of disabled people in society are nowhere clearer than in the built environment. The step, heavy door at the entrance to buildings, the lack of color contrasting on busy thoroughfares, the high positioning of lift buttons, door handles, toilet roll holders and shop counters all act as barriers to people with disabilities.

The provision of equal access enhances everyone’s capacity to participate fully in community life, regardless of their physical or mental capabilities. People with a disability and other people with access limitations have the same fundamental rights as all members of the community, as articulated by the following principles:

  • People with a disability should not be defined by their disability.
  • People with a disability have a right to equal access to facilities, services, programs, activities, information, and employment in order to fully participate in the community and have equal opportunity to fulfill their individual potential.
  • Changes to the physical and social environment that improve access and equity to assist people with a disability and enhance their participation in the community, and also benefit the wider community.

People with a disability should not be prohibited from participating in their chosen recreational, social or vocational activities because of architectural or attitudinal barriers.