Inclusion – A new way of measuring success?
Inclusion is so important for our communities. Our whole societal structures are built upon collaboration. Imagine if we excluded say engineers. We’d have no houses, transport or communication systems. Imagine if we excluded say artists. We’d have no outlet for expressing our emotions, and connecting with other people. We desperately need diversity and contribution from all types of people.
So why do some groups of people still remain excluded from parts of society?
This topic is not just relevant to disabled people. It touches many minority groups in the world. People struggling to access the same opportunities as others. This topic is also not for the whingers and complainers. It’s for the visionaries and optimists.
Let me explain this a bit better from the prism of disability. As a wheelchair user of 30 years (I’m now 33 years old), I’ve experienced so much exclusion. The house parties that were inaccessible. The transport without ramps. The bus and taxi drivers who were too busy to help. The organisations recruitment discrimination. The endless admin for care support and vital equipment.
Yuk. Doesn’t sound good right?
I’m very fortunate that my parents only saw barriers as challenges. No problem was too big to solve! They fought for me to go to mainstream school. They fought for my care and equipment. They took me abroad, despite the many pitfalls. They told me I was worthy, despite some funny old attitudes I came across.
Really what they gave me was a mindset. A mindset full of possibilities. A tool to take on the world. A power to bend reality to my will.
Once I finished my A Levels, I wanted to go to university. This time it would all be on me. Was I scared? Absolutely. Did I think it’d all go bad? Naturally. Did I do it? You bet I did!
Of course, I was homesick at the beginning. I’d be sick before big presentations from nerves. Sometimes it’d all be too much, and I’d go home for a weekend to recuperate.
It was however the best thing I ever did!
Since starting university nearly 15 years ago I learned to manage my health, finances, and independent living support better. I learned to drive an adapted car. I mastered resilience. I went with 2 care support workers to Australia 10 years ago. I lived and worked in London. I started my own business. I visited other places like Los Angeles, New York, Cancun, Barcelona, Berlin, Helsinki, and Tokyo. I’ve even flown a plane, SCUBA dived, been skiing, and written a book about these adventures.
It’s been scary, exhilarating, and phenomenal. All at the same time.
So this inclusion thing we touched upon earlier. If I hadn’t had these opportunities. Plus the super powers from my parents. Super powers everyone can access from many places too. I would’ve been stuck at home, depressed, unhealthy, and a different person.
With the acceptance of the world, I’m giving so much more back. In my family life, with my friends, and at work. This year I was voted Britain’s third most influential disabled person. All of these experiences, skills and knowledge I’ve acquired benefit the world. They all add to the rich tapestry of life in beautiful ways.
Maybe instead of looking at inclusion, accessibility, and equality as abstract hippy words. Or even worse as economically negative ideas. Let’s look at these as economic benefits. Most of all let’s look at the wonder of sharing ideas and experiences. Disabled or not. To all types of people.
We’re all here for more than outdated ideas of success and huge bank balances. Maybe it’s time to make inclusion our new measure for success and achievement?