The NDIS and many disability services use the word inclusion when talking about their services. I’d like to share my thoughts on why I think inclusion is important and what it feels like to be excluded.
As a person with lived experience of disability, I can say that it sometimes leaves you feeling isolated, alone and like you don’t fit in. I felt this way because I wasn’t “normal” and couldn’t do what everyone else could do.
I felt as though I didn’t have a purpose or couldn’t participate in society because I wasn’t valued for myself or the contribution I could make. It can be hard feeling as though people don’t accept you for who you are because of your perceived differences.
For me, learning about the social model of disability was empowering. The social model suggests that disability is not caused by my brain or body, but by barriers put in my way. These barriers were not just physical (e.g. like a staircase) but attitudinal.
They were attitudinal because society doesn’t fully accept or include people with disabilities as it should, because perhaps we as a society are afraid of things that are different. I only overcame these nagging feelings of isolation and not fitting in once I got an education and started working which gave me a purpose. I finally felt I was of value to society. For once, I started to feel like everyone else.
I have often wondered about those less fortunate than myself, whose disabilities are harder for society to accept, how do we make them feel included?
A good start is to consider how all the places we encounter on a daily basis can be more inclusive and welcoming to everyone.
For example, say hello to someone even if you know they cannot readily respond. If you meet someone, be welcoming and give them enough time to feel comfortable with you and start interacting with you. This type of change will happen if we as a society are committed to seeing people with disabilities included in all areas of life.
This article was written by communications officer for VMCH Disability Services, Phin Meere, pictured third from left. Phin writes regular articles about his lived experience with disability.