What is inclusion: International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Posted on December 3, 2018 by kerri
This year’s theme for the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd is “Inclusion is for everybody” [1] What does inclusion mean in a community?
International Day of People with Disability
Inclusion is the opposite of segregation. While historically children with disabilities have been educated in separate classrooms or sometimes schools, more and more schools are reaching for inclusion in classrooms as is appropriate for the child—they may leave for specialized assistance or therapies for a period, but typically will work alongside their peers with the assistance of an aide or educational assistant in the classroom and in social situations. This is the most easy to see example of inclusion, but it goes a lot farther than that—inclusion also exists in community programs, workplaces, childcare, transportation and design of public spaces.
Defining inclusion and Examples
Inclusion is defined by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention as “Including people with disabilities in everyday activities and encouraging them to have roles similar to their peers who do not have a disability”. [2
Inclusion is also providing an appropriate environment for people with disabilities to participate alongside their peers—not all inclusive situations look the same and are individualized to a person’s needs. For someone with a physical disability, a physically accessible workplace may be all that is required for inclusion; for someone with a sensory processing disability or autism, inclusion may include use of noise cancelling earphones or earmuffs to block out too much sensory input. For many other disabilities, inclusion may be admitting an attendant, aide or service animal to accompany the person to enable them to participate fully in an activity available to the public.
Inclusion also exists for medical needs—which may or may not be considered disabilities—for instance, someone with a food allergy, inclusion is ensuring they can eat safely alongside their peers or coworkers. 
When and how does inclusion work?
Inclusion should work in almost all situations, even if the individual with the disability is participating in modified activities alongside their age-matched peers. 
Struggles with inclusion
In some cases, there may be more benefit to the person with the disability to participate in segregated activities. Where possible, segregation vs. inclusion should be the choice of the person with the disability. For instance, while some sports teams for people with disabilities include those without disabilities, this is a scenario where it can certainly be better to have a greater number of participants with disabilities vs. those who do not have a disability. 
In other situations, segregation may be required for a period of time if behavioural needs make it unsafe for the participant with a disability or those participating with them to participate in the same programming alongside peers. 

For instance, a common problem is individuals who are violent as a result of their disability may wish to participate in inclusive programming such as a camp or community swim class, but not be permitted to attend if they have hurt or attempted to hurt a fellow attendee. Most people with intellectual disabilities or mental illness are NOT violent [3,4], and are more likely to be victims of violence [3, 5]. This is where a “grey zone” in inclusion exists: determining if the inclusive environment is the best fit for a participant to be involved in, or if they would benefit more—at least for a time—from a segregated recreational environment with more support. Just because a person can be included does not mean it is the best option for them and the other participants—and of course, safety is the greatest priority and responsibility of all service providers! Decisions around inclusion must be made by the person with the disability, their family or caregiver, the program in question, and any involved disability or funding agencies. It is also possible for people to participate in both inclusive and segregated activities, to reap the benefits of both inclusive and specialized programming. 

Most of the time, it is very possible to include people with disabilities in all aspects of life with adequate support where needed, and in some case, modifications if necessary based on the person with the disability. 
Medical ID jewelry for disabilities
Some disabilities are apparent and some are not. Invisible disability medical ID jewelry, as well as medical ID for those with more apparent disabilities, can communicate medical or communication needs in case of an emergency. We have many types of medical ID jewelry available, including sports bands or key chains that could be attached to shoes, which may be more sensory friendly medical alert jewelry options. Check out our shop here.

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