Inclusion Helps us All

A simple set of stairs can be insurmountable to a significant proportion of our population. So why do we still use them as standard? This and many other questions need to be asked to enable our society to be more inclusive.

We went for a family day trip on Monday, to a large attraction. My son has ASC and as such we had booked a carer ticket for me, bringing the trip into our price range – just! My son cannot attend out of school provision and remain healthily regulated, so I have to work around school hours, limiting my earning potential. Therefore we make use of the provisions designed to support families like ours, in the knowledge we have paid into the pot before, and will do so again. There may be many issues in our society, but at least we do have this gesture of recognition within our system that we should support those who, through no fault of their own, need it at times, and I am very grateful for it.

However, as we arrived at the gate, we were then asked for his ‘proof of care’. My son is a self conscious pre teen who is still processing his diagnosis and the implications of it. He did not need it to be declared to the queuing masses that he needed care. Mostly, he doesn’t. However, within an hour of being in an environment with other people following months of lockdown, he certainly did, and as I was sitting in the car park with him while the rest of the family finished the trip I was even more grateful for the carer ticket!

It got me thinking. We are so ingrained in reasonable adjustments being the ‘other’ way, we reinforce the disabling routines of our society. Surely, if I purchase a ticket for a carer, that should be the end of it, just as if I purchase one for an adult or child? If ticket fraud is so rife then supporting evidence could be requested at the time of purchase. Oh but then you need internet to pre book your ticket. But that’s ok, because everyone has access to the internet, don’t they. Don’t they? Once you start actually thinking about it, the way we actively disable the most vulnerable element of our communities becomes more and more apparent.

So why not look at it a different way. When we plan modern developments, can’t we look at building them in a way which enables as many as possible instead of reinforcing traditional designs? Let’s have ramps for everyone, at an appropriate angle, with handrails and anti-slip flooring, with a white track line for the visually impaired. Let’s train all customer service staff in basic sign language as standard. In a world where masks are going to be with us for a while, let’s investigate options for windows around the mouth area so those who lipread don’t lose their independence – that’s not on them, that’s on us! Sensory calming spaces in every public place, wide enough corridors for large wheelchairs for the young men and women who are every bit as entitled to their human rights as everyone else, free internet because if services become online only then the access to them should be universal. I could go on.

But the cost! The practicalities! I hear the objections, and I understand there is no quick fix, especially in historical church buildings with listed status to contend with. We must still seek to be the best we can be though. It is yet another ingrained mindset we must actively challenge in our own awareness and that of others. Because the human cost of exclusion, isolation, low self esteem, being singled out, mistrust (because ‘they’ could be ‘faking it’) and a whole raft of other experiences which make up the daily life of thousands, is currently too high.

Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ ” Matthew 25:45 (NRSV)

Peace be with you.

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