What does inclusion mean to you?

October 10, 2014

By Kelly Bonner

What does inclusion mean to you? If you ask me that question, a million things run through my head. It is something I deal with on a daily basis. Take Sunday for example. My husband and I have to leave for church early so that we can be sure to get an accessible parking spot with enough room to get a wheelchair beside the car, and so that we can get the one seat in the church where my husband can actually see the stage when everyone else is standing (which happens more than you might think in our southern Baptist church). Not only that, but our church has stadium seats – you know, like the kind at the movie theater- so his seating options are already limited to a front row or an end- and how many Baptists do you know who like to sit in the front row? When we go to the restaurant for lunch, we have to fight to find another accessible parking spot and then try to find an accessible table and not a booth, which sometimes requires us to wait an extra hour (and we won’t talk about the restaurants that require us to use a separate entrance just so his wheelchair can get in). When we head to the grocery store, the accessible spots and the striped areas beside them are always full! Once inside at the produce section, I have to grab all the fresh veggies we want (including his favorite- jalapenos) because he can’t reach them. And at the checkout, while my hands are full from bags of groceries, the cashier still tries to hand me the receipt instead of my husband, who is right in front of her. And all of that takes place in only half of one day.

Have you thought about inclusion today? 

By 7 a.m. this morning I had thought about inclusion when I poured water in to make coffee because my husband can’t see the fill line, and when I tucked my dining room chair all the way under the table so that his wheelchair would fit around it. That’s my life. But I wonder if other people ever think about inclusion at all. It is easy not to think about something when it is not a part of your everyday life. I am sure most people don’t choose to be ignorant of the facts; it just doesn’t affect their daily lives or make the headline news. Just like so many things in life, from starving children in Africa to the sex slave trade that is rampant right here in the United States, until it happens to you or you choose to educate yourself on the facts, it plays no role in your life. But here’s the deal. There are starving children in Africa. Lot’s, actually. And NEWS FLASH: inclusion is an issue for millions of people across the United States. Every. Single. Day.

Inclusion doesn’t always have to mean the big things either. The ADA is in its 25th year and, because of it, our country has made some great improvements when it comes to accessibility. But inclusion isn’t necessarily something our government can regulate. Like the man who looked exasperated at my husband and his wheelchair, when he told us our “accessible seats” were up a few stairs and said, “Can’t you just take a few steps?” Inclusion means going beyond the law simply because it makes sense for everyone. If my husband had the same access and ease to do everything I can in life, it would literally change our world! Inclusion means that after rafting at the same place for years we showed up this year to find THIS:

Accessible Ramp

Which means my family got to do THIS:

Family Rafting

Today, the White House is hosting a summit on “Improved Health and Fitness for Americans with Disabilities” and, along with the summit launching “Commit to Inclusion” campaign.  Everyone, from individuals to organizations to large corporate companies, are being encouraged to help build healthy, inclusive communities. Imagine the impact if people finally open their eyes to the facts lain out before them. Imagine what would happen if companies and communities actually made this commitment. Imagine if my husband and I could join a normal gym TOGETHER. Imagine if I didn’t have to call ahead to every single place we go. Imagine if he could get his own jalapenos!

Inclusion would mean our world would change completely!

So here’s my challenge to you: Commit to Inclusion! Change my world and the world of the 54 million Americans living with a disability and their friends and family.

If you too live with a disability or are affected by disability, tell us what inclusion means to you. Use #inclusionmeans and let us know how it could impact your world!

Originally posted in NCHPAD Endless CapABILITIES: http://blog.ncpad.org/2014/10/06/what-does-inclusion-mean-to-you/#more.

3 Comments. Leave new

Your article is wonderful. I truly hope that society continues to embrace inclusion, because it is the only way to show that we are considerate of persons with disabilities even when we are seemingly unaffected by their experiences. Also, I wanted to point out the fact that there are starving children in South America and parts of Eastern Europe. I am African, and I feel it always perpetuates a stereotype when the reference to starving children is only ever associated with Africa. In fact, there are lots of children in Africa who do not starve. Again, I appreciate the spirit of your article; the message of inclusion is one that cannot be emphasized enough, so thank you.

Thanks for your comment – and you are correct, there are starving children every where, even right here in the USA. I could have easily pointed out the fact without specifying a location. Thank you for pointing that out. We are both in the world of tearing down stereotypes and i want to do my part.

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