Inclusive Spaces Where Disability Is Simply Forgotten

Jim LeBrecht is a highly successful businessman.  He also has a disability.  You can find him on facebook here: ! <https://www.facebook.com/JimLeBrecht/posts/10152206635136182

 

<https://www.facebook.com/JimLeBrecht/posts/10152206635136182>

 

I resonated so much with his post that I’ve reblogged it below.  In this increasingly global world where inclusion is more often than not bantered about in business and professional circles, it is astounding how often disability is simply left out of the picture.  , Comments welcome.  Jim’s words follow. Unfortunately I have spent 40 minutes trying to make a blockquote with a screen reader to no avail, so just imagine that the text is quoted. Yes, this is ironically an issue of inclusion happening right here, right now.

I’ve started a conversation with a friend and came up with this thought that I want to share:

When you tout your workshop as being inclusive so that you can spread your knowledge about being an entrepreneur to underserved communities and you hold it up a flight of stairs, then you do more harm than good. Especially when you tell the group there that it’s more expensive to find a place that is wheelchair accessible. The attendees, some of whom will build businesses won’t see the qualified and smart folks with disabilities in the class with them. They won’t meet the people that have to improvise everyday and are good at problem solving on the spot. They didn’t have me there, the guy using the wheelchair that has run his own business for 18 years and has been a manager for over 30 years.

When you make an educational video that shows the harm of stereotypes in your profession and you don’t include one person with a disability, you tacitly say that it’s not important to include those with disabilities. Someone forgot to include us in the script. Why does that happen? The filmmaker is a wonderful, talented and very progressive person. I love that filmmaker. Will that person hate me for posting this if they see it?

When you build your urban farm but don’t put in a ramp to your offices, as much as you say you are for inclusion, I only see it as a slap in the face and a barrier for people like me to participate. I’m not wanted there.

What have we been fighting for all these years if the excuse is that they forgot to include us? Or that the money for access was better spent elsewhere.

It’s not hard how to figure out how to include us in your world. Think about how you want to be treated and then apply it to us. I’d like to sit in a wonderful location when I go to the movies. Well, put the handicapped seating there, not in the back of the theater where the latecomers come and go and the lobby noise destroys the film. (A special shout out to the wonderful Castro Theater).

 

Raise the money for the ramp so that you can afford to pay for a ramp and the health coverage of your employees.

 

Look around and see who is underrepresented and ask yourself why. And then ask how you can change the status quo.

 

I want my lawyer to understand my world. Will he or she understand if they don’t have a disability or of there is no one on their staff that can provide the needed perspective of my community? Are the disabled part of the bar association’s plan for improving diversity?

 

I want my doctor to be smarter about my disability because they have had to live with one themselves.

 

And I want to stop living in fear that if I ask for too much that I’ll be shut out of working at a facility that can make my career better than ever. I’ll be asking this later this week at a meeting. And it worries me. Is my talent and contribution going to be seen as a bigger asset than the cost of making a screening room a place where I can sit in the middle of the theater?

 

This fear won’t go away until people stop looking at inclusion as a problem to be dealt with. And I’m not saying that it should be done because it’s the right thing. It’s not about morality. It’s about doing the smart thing. It’s about being willing to invite everyone into your world so that you can both learn from each other. Can we look at inclusion as something positive where you find you are unearthing wonderful people and fresh ideas?

 

As my friend Lawrence Carter-Long <https://www.facebook.com/LawrenceCarterLong>  says, “Nothing Without Us.

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2 thoughts on “Inclusive Spaces Where Disability Is Simply Forgotten

  1. I’ve often thought about why diversity and equity do not include disability.

    More work is needed to bring these issues to light.

  2. I completely agree. As we were talking about earlier, it’s strange that there’s so much emphasis on equality at work and elsewhere, but almost implicitly “equality” is supposed to apply to race, gender, and class only. Disability gets left out of the formulation of the concept and the discussion. I think one reason is that people tend to be threatened by people with disabilities, or fear their vulnerability because it reminds others that they, too, are vulnerable. This is just one opinion about why disability is just conveniently “forgotten” as we otherwise bring equity and inclusion into wider cultural awareness. I’m sure this is not the only reason.

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