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Why is the Word INCLUSION So Important?

In the beginning of the pandemic, I was attending a virtual conference. I was early entering into the virtual room and was listening to the presenter and the monitor having a conversation. The monitor of the session confirmed the title, which had the word inclusion in it. The presenter mentioned briefly how she despises the word inclusion because it means that people are being excluded. If everyone was being included, the word would cease to exist.

I was shocked. Not only do I have about 30+ articles of clothing with the word inclusion on it, but she had a point. I have also been experiencing reading random comments on social media where people say inclusion is not inclusive and with media skewing actual definitions, I wanted to take the time to discuss the word inclusion and why it is important for us to continue to use the word today.

Let’s define the word inclusion.

Inclusion, as defined in the Oxford Dictionary, is the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded. To me, inclusion is being included in the group of your choosing. For example, your school, your neighborhood, your church, etc. It doesn’t mean you will always be included in your chosen group as that is not how life works sometimes. But being turned away because of a disability, is exclusion. Which happens every day.

The presenter said, if there was inclusion happening everywhere, we wouldn’t need the word. But realistically, we are very far away from inclusion. When you see a person in a wheelchair, do you think they can do everything you can do? Literally that question is ableist because I am assuming you are not in a wheelchair.

Comments like, “You’re pretty for a disabled person” or “wow, they don’t seem that disabled” or anytime people say “normal kids” or “normal classrooms” in reference to people without disabilities, that is ableist.

Another important word to define. Ableist, discrimination towards people with disabilities. The best way to stop ableism, is to be aware of any ableist thoughts you might have, recognize the change you need to make, and make the change. That’s how you stop ableism.

Most people fighting for inclusion understand that they are also still learning how to be the best allies with people with disabilities. And too many news sources are not understanding the word inclusion. Inclusion does not mean only a specific group gets to be included it means everyone gets to be included.

But this is something our community will always be working towards. The wording is helping us be aware. Not exclusive. In my opinion, the problem is that we are a community that has ableist and racist thoughts that we don’t even recognize are there.

When designing a building or a playground, how many people consider people with disabilities? Are their ramps, wide enough hallways, or working elevators? ADA laws have helped this, but it doesn’t always fix people’s mindsets. It’s a start. When you park and block a driveway, did you know that a person in a wheelchair now just lost access of the sidewalk? When children ask you why is that person in a wheelchair, do you shush them and tell them they’re being rude? Or do you educate them? Have you ever used offensive language such as the r-word, wheelchair bound, spaz, but felt like it was ok because you were in the privacy of your own home? These are all ableist and not ok.

And you can’t tell me that people don’t do these things because I see hundreds of ableist comments on social media every day and hear ableist comments around me while running errands. It is all around us and it is a problem. And if you tell me, “It’s a joke” or to “take it easy,” no! That is you supporting ableism.

One comment really got me recently on social media. Someone said that the leftists are ruining the word inclusion and everyone needs to use a different word. When I asked her what word she would suggest, she had none. I did the next best thing and looked into right side media to see what is wrong with the word inclusion.

I fell down the rabbit hole and was reading about DeSantis signing a bill that bans state funding towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs. I was watching a panel of people discussing this, all on the right side of the political spectrum, saying how inclusion is exclusive. I am not saying all people on the right side feel this way, but this was where the original comment led me to look. If people think inclusion is only for a specific group, then of course I would agree with them and say inclusion is hypocritical. But inclusion is focusing on a specific group to be included in their community. It does not mean anyone will be excluded. This is us recognizing where we aren’t considering minority groups.

My question is, what do you want to do? You don’t want state funding for DEI programs for public institutions. Ok. So how will we make sure we are being diverse, inclusive, and equitable? No one can say we are being that now, so how do we change?

I also watched the viral Candace Owens video discussing a recent fashion advertisement showing models that actually use wheelchairs and her asking “how far are we going to take this inclusivity thing” My answer, until people feel included. Why is including people so frustrating for others?

Language evolves and changes and I get that. I used to say differently abled and then stopped after people with disabilities voiced that that language was offensive to them. Disability is not a bad word. What is most important is that you use the language the person with the disability wants you to use. Usually, it is just their name.

I am not quite sure how the word inclusion has become so political, because it shouldn’t be. But it should be a practice that we all try to adhere by. Let’s keep educating others and having the conversations about inclusion and how we can make sure we are practicing inclusion in our schools and communities. Inclusion starts with you and I just want to help.

Learn more at @inclusionstartsnow


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