Thursday, January 19, 2012

Unintentional Exclusion

Some places are proud to open their doors to the disabled but, once inside, it's like being in the 1960's and being told, you don't have to sit in the back of the bus any more but don't get any ideas about sitting in the seat next to me. Then you discover the only place there are any rows they don't occupy are in the back of the bus. That's today's exclusion, unintentional and often in denial.

I once took my disabled daughter, Emma, to an internationally known disability organization and found one of their employees illegally parked in the handicap parking space we needed to unload  Emma's wheelchair. When I complained the employee's manager defended the employee and said, referring to the handicap parking laws, "We're taking a break from that today."

I once complained about a church with a disability ministry that, although it was unintentional, Emma had been excluded from their Christmas program. They responded by sending me a letter calling me names and accusing me of defaming their organization.

Prior to my severely disabled daughter being born it was common for us to go out to lunch after church with other people. In all the years since my daughter was born we've only been invited out to lunch once.

This fast food restaurant had a new handicap parking space complete with new sign, new paint on the pavement, and a new access to the concrete sidewalk. Unfortunately, they failed to move the bicycle rack that blocked the sidewalk to the restaurant's entrance.

The one thing all of these examples have in common is nobody intended to exclude or offend anyone. It's human nature to want to be around people like ourselves so, unless you go out of your way to practice inclusion, you will automatically exclude us and probably won't even be aware of it. Even well-meaning people trying hard to do the right thing end up excluding us because, unless you're in a wheelchair, it's hard to anticipate the needs of someone in a wheelchair. Even so, it's still exclusion and it still hurts.

What is inclusion? With regards to our example of the back of the bus, it's someone who says, "Sit any place you like and we'll come sit with you."

No comments:

Post a Comment