The 4 Stages

    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.

    People with disabilities are completely removed from the rest of the circle of society.

    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.

    While some things may have been born from a good place by a person with a good heart, (I imagine a mother of a child with special needs back then being on the forefront of helping others in need by starting a “home” for people like her own child so that she could be with him everyday) that generally wasn’t the case.

    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.

    People with disabilities are placed outside the main circle of society but are given their own separate “schools” and “workplaces”.

    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!

    That is right “THESE DAYS”. Separation and “Sheltered Workshops” are still very much a thing. Sheltered workshops are places where people with disabilities go to “work” often for pennies on the dollar doing things they most likely would not have chosen had anyone taken the time to ask. 60 minutes did an expose of Goodwill and their practices with sub minimum wage labor. Again, some things may have been started with the best of intentions and may have equaled progress at some point in time, but sheltered workshops should be a thing of the past. See the Goodwill Industries story here. Goodwill aren’t the only ones, I know at least 3 people who are (or have been) involved in this type of setting today.

    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:

    People with disabilities are included in the same schools and in some of the same activities as other community members but are still kept mostly isolated.

    Integration was a major step away from Exclusion, a baby step from Separation, and is still a far cry from Inclusion.

    Integration (common evolving view): Let’s realize that people with disabilities are human, “they” can go to our same schools as long as “they” are in classrooms for “special people”, and we have discovered that “they” really do have feelings. We could even give them their own Olympics. I grew up in the age of Integration. We had people with “special needs” in our school, but “they” always were in the “CDC building” and “they” still rode “the small bus” and were often referred to as “the R word” even by educators and professionals. Integration is just a closer version of separation. We might see the “CDC kids” occasionally on the playground or something, but really in “typical classrooms” we rarely made contact. Integration, while, bringing people with disabilities into the same establishments is still so isolating. We remain in the age of Integration. Society is learning a little more and expecting a little more but the process is way too slow.
    People with disabilities work, learn, and play alongside people without disabilities in the same settings with reasonable accommodations but without segregation.

    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.

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