Acceptance versus inclusion
Blind Citizens Australia recently held their Victorian State Convention. The theme of the convention was acceptance versus inclusion. I think it is not enough to simply be accepted. People with a disability should be included in all community life. This includes education, work and play. I love being included in sporting activities. I also like that I can travel on public transport. But my vision impairment makes many employees unsure whether I can do a good job. I want to keep fighting to make sure people with a disability can be included in community life.
Posted by: Kristy Hyland, on 10/11/10
Inclusion is about being treated and participating as an equal
Blind Citizens Australia recently held their Victorian State Convention. The theme of the convention was acceptance versus inclusion. Unfortunately, a two-day event could only scratch the surface of the topic.
We interact with other people in many different areas of life. They include education, work and leisure. It is disappointing that the attitudes of others often fail people with a disability.
Participating as an equal
I think acceptance is tolerance. But inclusion is about being treated and participating as an equal. I believe that opportunity and acceptance are the first steps on the path to inclusion.
I think it is inadequate to simply be accepted in the community. I want to be included in every activity I choose to become involved in. Typical activities I fill my days with include working, playing sport, using public transport, reading books, walking the dog and shopping for groceries. I am put at a disadvantage in most things I do. But I can still be included in everything.
Some positive and negative experiences
I feel included in the blind sporting community. I have fun laughing with other Swish players. I am competitive at tournament level. I also coach. One time when I was unable to attend a junior coaching session I received a message from a disappointed player.
My vision impairment leaves many employers uncertain of my abilities. This is absurd as most (if not all) vision impaired people can work. I have qualifications and the skills I need for many communications roles. But positions are frequently advertised as “driver’s licence required” even if it is unnecessary. In the United Kingdom, employers can only demand a driver’s licence if it is essential to doing the job.
I prefer to travel on trains or walk when I can. My blind pass allows me to travel on buses, trains and trams for free. My guide dog also guarantees me a seat on a train. Not driving saves me money on insurance, registration and vehicle running costs. But it does cost me in time and convenience.
I take my guide dog Volly to the local park so he can run with other dogs. There is a group of regulars who run our dogs together. Nobody else has a guide dog. One day a man asked if I could read a number off his phone. I laughed. The man was also laughing when I pointed out that I was probably the only person there who couldn’t read the phone. Only a guide dog harness slung over my shoulder hinted at my vision impairment. I am included as just another member of the group.
Stepping outside your comfort zone gives people the opportunity to accept and include you. This also helps to break down stereotypes. But it is difficult to be included if we have to fight for our right to be accepted. If our fight for acceptance changes policies which exclude us, then I think it’s worth it.
A key message from the recent Blind Citizens Australia conference was that proof of our inclusion and belonging is evident when our presence is missed.
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