The diagram above illustrates the four phases that disability rights advocates have fought against and are striving towards from Exclusion, Separation, and Integration, to total Inclusion.
Exclusion (common past view): Let’s take all people born with a disability and place “them” directly into an institution or leave “them” for dead. Let’s keep “ them” out of public view. “They” are not human. Don’t worry, “they” don’t have feelings. People with disabilities were often dehumanized, abused, sterilized, and were subject to what can now only be described as torture.
Unfortunately, historically these institutions were (and in some cases, still are) very large, scary, and badly run places. America and much of the world has come a long way following the days of total Exclusion, but facets of it still exist.
As thought processes began to shift, society began to separate people with disabilities.
Separation (common evolving view): Not all people with disabilities should spend all their time in an institution. “We could make money off ‘them’ and help ‘them’ at the same time”. “We could even pick ‘them’ up from their institution or homes and bring ‘them’ here for 8 hours a day”. “Let’s pay ‘them’ what they are worth…That’s like 5 cents a month or something, right, Bob”? Believe it or not, this still happens! I mean with the increase in cost of living and all most of the disabled people at sheltered workshops are at least making .50 cents an hour these days!
I did a search for “sheltered workshops” to see if I could find a photo of an actual workshop, not surprisingly, there were lots of photos of people who obviously have disabilities smiling and looking like they were having a great time with lots of other friendly faces around to help out and no photos that depict what really goes on in many sheltered workshops. The first thing that popped up was for Canterbury Enterprises in St. Louis. In all fairness, I know nothing about Canterbury and I am not claiming that people in sheltered workshops don’t ever share a laugh with each other or have an ounce of fun, but no matter how you slice it, it is not fair to work and get paid less than the minimum living wage. This in no way leads towards “independence”. Canterbury’s description on their “about” page says:
“We provide meaningful work for individuals with disabilities in an accepting and nurturing atmosphere in which they are contributing members of society. Our services include light assembly, packaging, kitting, labeling, sorting, inspection, mailing, repackaging, custom rework, product salvage, and more. We handle ongoing, high volume assignments as well as smaller, one-time specialty projects. Although our services are value priced, we ensure the highest of standards from our staff and 90 employees.”
Aren’t all “employees” considered “staff”?
Separation is still very much a part of today’s society through sheltered workshops, special schools, lack of access within communities, media portrayal, and the list goes on and on. Moving on from separation we go to Integration:
Integration was a major step away from Exclusion, a baby step from Separation, and is still a far cry from Inclusion.
We are finally beginning to see some Inclusion. We need total Inclusion and many are fighting for it. This is 2015, we know that people with disabilities can be and many already are great contributors to our society. People with disabilities should be treated no differently than people without. People with disabilities have the same thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants as those without. “They” can do the same jobs, “they” can earn the same degrees, “they” can act in the same movies, “they” can sit next to us in the same restaurants, “they” can be our bosses, “they” can be and do anything “they” want do.
The first step towards total inclusion is eliminating the word “they”. There is no, “us” and “them”. Until we understand that, we are planets away from total inclusion.
At the Cal Tash conference in March 2015, I sat next to a few teachers from the “CHIME” school. The CHIME School educates all of it’s students based on the individual students needs in a fully inclusive class setting and encourages teachers to think out out of the box and work together. They say:
“Inclusive education at CHIME means that children who reflect the demographics of the surrounding region—including children who develop typically, children with special needs and children who are gifted—learn side by side.”
Here is a 2 minute video of their education model
Imagine a world where all schools were fully inclusive. If all children learned from an early age that on the inside we are all the same and though our methods may be different we are all capable of achieving great things. Let’s teach our children to embrace all of humanity and how to be people who truly make a difference in the world.