Updated: Nov 16, 2022
The word “inclusion.” What is it all about? Who needs to be included? Who do we exclude? Do I even know what I am talking about when I use the word?
“the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.”
Did you really know what it meant before recently? Well, to tell you the truth it is a word that even I, after raising a complex medically fragile child had to research and embrace. I can tell you that I was probably behind the curve as I was raising and then living without our son, Robert.
When Robert was in elementary school, I thought it would be in the best interest for him to be included in a “regular” classroom with an aide because that was what so many parents of children with disabilities would fight for. So, I joined in with other parents not yet knowing that his seizures were going to be so debilitating that his best, most appropriate elementary school classroom for Robert would be in the Special Education classroom. Robert was very supported there in his elementary school classroom by his wonderful teachers and aides. He was included in that school because his school district demanded that he was worthy of being seen.
Robert was a person who fit into all of the categories described in that “inclusion” definition. He was physically and mentally disabled in addition to being an African American young boy. He was the exact person that this definition encompassed. My precious Robert needed to be included and not excluded or marginalized.
But there were places he could not go. There were stairs where his wheelchair was too heavy for me to lift him onto, and no elevator was reachable. There were doorways that were too narrow for him to pass through. There were playgrounds where the gravel surfaces were too hazardous for him to ride over. There were obstacles all around him! But we made sure he was included in as many places as possible.
He would take field trips with his classroom on buses that could accommodate his wheelchair. He would join us in overnight stays at hotels that had facilities and walkways for persons with disabilities. Robert once walked across a stage at a school assembly in Maryland and received the “best dressed” award in pre-school because I was determined that no matter what his intellectual ability was going to be, he was going to always look good and be “seen”! It was part of my focused commitment to him that he would not be overlooked.
But, looking back now, I do not know if I did that consciously or unconsciously. Was I very early on already acting out my deep heartache of thinking Robert would be not included? I think so. We do things as parents sometimes for no other reason other than we believe it necessary. When we fight for inclusion, do we really know what that change would look like? I would answer, “No.” We just know that something isn’t right, and it needs to change.
I fought for Robert to have home-bound educational services as he was to enter middle school. It was against almost every suggestion from his ARD (admission, review, and dismissal) committee, but it was very clear that his physicians and I were seeing increased seizures and physical weakness that demanded too much from him. His mitochondrial disease was wearing him out, and the least amount of energy he had to expend to maintain his bodily functions, the longer we hoped he would live. At that point in his life, getting on a bus and attending school every day for five days a week was not an option. The “least restrictive” environment was his home. With all of his medical complexities, his home became his place of inclusion.
I realize that others with disabilities or special needs may have different ways they need to be included. Recently, I was exercising on my treadmill and was enjoying my thirty-minute power walk through scenic Munich, Germany. It was a sudden treat for me to see a young man in the featured video in a wheelchair with a caregiver in scrubs, standing beside his wheelchair as they watched the crowds and body of water together. I immediately thought of inclusion! The walkway along the waterway was built and paved wide enough to accommodate people walking, running, and sitting in their wheelchairs all at the same time. He (the young man in his wheelchair) had been thought about. He was seen. He was included. As I watched the camera wind pass his location on my equipment screen, I smiled. That was inclusion in Munich, Germany I was watching!
Inclusion can happen anywhere. Inclusion can happen at any time. Inclusion can happen in any season. We are in an explosive season of inclusion in many companies and cities. It has become popular to use the word in conversations everywhere - the community, the school, the church, the office, the park and the hospital. We seem to want to use the term. I want to use the term! But do we want to really make the changes necessary to include others?
I believe we want to do better! I do realize that I am a person who sees the glass as half full, but that’s where we can start. The glass is already half full as we look at how we can do a better job to include persons with disabilities in our communities because we are actually talking about it. We have openly acknowledged that we have excluded segments of humanity and now we at least suggest that we can make changes.
I want to believe for a Season of Inclusion … not just a season during the holidays where we watch movies about little boys with crutches who get well and that make us feel good. But a Season of Inclusion that lasts all year long in which we wake up and do something about it. It just takes each of us waking the person next to us up so that change can happen. So that change will happen!
During this season, I choose to wake up and advocate to make this a Season of Inclusion. Cheers to you if you choose to join me!
Listening Library: “Rise Up” (Andra Day)
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you… ” (Luke 14:13-14 NIV)
You're broken down and tired Of living life on a merry go round And you can't find the fighter But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out And move mountains We gonna walk it out And move mountains
And I'll rise up I'll rise like the day I'll rise up I'll rise unafraid I'll rise up And I'll do it a thousand times again And I'll rise up High like the waves I'll rise up In spite of the ache I'll rise up And I'll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
When the silence isn't quiet And it feels like it's getting hard to breathe And I know you feel like dying But I promise we'll take the world to its feet And move mountains Bring it to its feet And move mountains
And I'll rise up I'll rise like the day I'll rise up I'll rise unafraid I'll rise up And I'll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
All we need, all we need is hope And for that we have each other And for that we have each other And we will rise We will rise We'll rise, oh, oh We'll rise
I'll rise up Rise like the day I'll rise up In spite of the ache I will rise a thousand times again And we'll rise up High like the waves We'll rise up In spite of the ache We'll rise up And we'll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
Ah, ah, ah, ah
Songwriters: Cassandra Monique Batie / Jennifer Decilveo
Rise Up lyrics © BMG Rights Management