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Why Disability Inclusion is Important

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15 Sep 2023

In today's diverse world, disability inclusion plays a vital role in creating a truly equitable world for all. It is not just a matter of meeting legal requirements or ticking boxes; it is about embracing the unique abilities and perspectives that individuals with disabilities bring to the table. 

It’s about addressing bias and removing stigma that has existed for centuries, so that we can move forward as a more just and equitable society. By promoting disability inclusion, we foster a better, more compassionate society that benefits everyone.

Including people with disabilities in all aspects of life, whether it's education, employment, or social activities, strengthens our communities and invariably helps every group.

Also, at its core, disability inclusion is about humanity. A person doesn’t need to prove their “worth” or provide some material output to deserve kindness, equal opportunities, and fair treatment. Disability rights are human rights.

Additionally, disability inclusion promotes empathy, understanding, and awareness. Through inclusive practices and design, we question stereotypes and remove existing barriers, creating a society that celebrates diversity in all its forms.

In this article, we will explore why disability inclusion is important, the benefits it brings, and practical ways we can all contribute to building a more inclusive world. Together, let's create a society that values and embraces the abilities of all its members, regardless of disability.

Understanding disability inclusion

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Disability inclusion is the practice of ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal access to opportunities and are fully included in all aspects of society. It goes beyond simply providing accommodations; it is about creating an environment where people with disabilities can thrive and contribute their talents and skills. 

It’s the practice of asking people what they need and how they could be better supported, and then truly listening to them. 

Further, every individual whether disabled or able-bodied has needs. Those needs tend to be unique to the individual and their circumstance. It is therefore important to keep in mind that disabled individuals don’t have “special” needs, they simply have needs that may be different from an able-bodied person.

Disability inclusion is not a one-size-fits-all approach; it requires understanding and addressing the specific needs and barriers faced by individuals with disabilities.

The importance of disability inclusion in society

Including people with disabilities in all aspects of life, whether it's education, employment, or social activities, enhances diversity and strengthens our communities. It is about acknowledging that individuals with disabilities have valuable skills, talents, and experiences that can contribute to the growth and success of organizations and society as a whole.

An inclusive society is one that values and celebrates the abilities of all its members and that supports the access needs of those community members. When we include individuals with disabilities, we create a society that is more representative of the diverse world we live in. This not only benefits individuals with disabilities but also benefits society as a whole by promoting innovation, creativity, and different perspectives.

For example, curbs on crosswalks have small ramps that make it easier for wheelchair users to cross the street. Those same ramps also benefit parents with strollers and people with suitcases or other roller bags. By designing something inclusive, it can help more than just the group it was originally designed for. 

Common misconceptions about disability inclusion

Why disability inclusion is important: a pair of headphones on a table

Despite the importance of disability inclusion, there are still misconceptions and stereotypes that hinder progress. One common misconception is that accommodating individuals with disabilities is expensive and burdensome. In reality, many accommodations are simple and cost-effective, such as providing accessible entrances or implementing flexible work arrangements. 

Others are now commonplace, such as allowing people to work from home or to use noise canceling headphones if they are feeling overstimulated. 

By focusing on the abilities and potential of individuals with disabilities, we can overcome these misconceptions and create inclusive environments.

Another misconception is that disability inclusion is only relevant to a small portion of the population. However, disability is more common than many people realize. According to the World Health Organization, over 16% of the world's population, or 1.3 billion people, live with some form of disability. 

It’s also the only identity group most people will join at some point in their life, particularly as they age.  

The social and economic impact of disability inclusion

Disability inclusion has significant social and economic benefits. When individuals with disabilities are included in the workforce, it increases productivity and drives economic growth. 

According to a study by Accenture, companies that prioritize disability inclusion outperform their peers in terms of profit margins and shareholder returns. In addition, disability inclusion reduces poverty and inequality by providing equal opportunities and access to resources.

Key statistics on disability inclusion

To fully understand the importance of disability inclusion, let's consider some key statistics:

  • Over 16% of the world's population, or more than 1 billion people, live with some form of disability
  • Individuals with disabilities are more likely to face unemployment and poverty compared to those without disabilities
  • The employment rate for individuals with disabilities in the US is significantly lower than for those without disabilities (21% versus 65%) according to the Department of Labor
  • People with disabilities in the US had $21 billion in discretionary income in 2018, which is more than the African-American and Hispanic market combined

These statistics highlight the stark need for society to prioritize disability inclusion. 

Strategies for promoting disability inclusion and creating an inclusive environment

Why disability inclusion is important: image of two friends hiking, one has a prosthetic leg

Promoting disability inclusion requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are some practical strategies that individuals can adopt, especially if you’re not the decision-maker:

  1. Education and awareness: Educate yourself first by joining workshops, training sessions, and awareness campaigns. Then in turn educate your friends when they say something ableist. One of the best resources for starting out is reading Emily Ladau’s Demystifying Disability
  2. Accessible infrastructure: Advocate with local government groups for accessible public spaces (e.g., ramps, elevators, and accessible restrooms) and provide public comments on new projects when possible.
  3. Inclusive employment practices: Ask people how you can help them do their best work and what their accessibility needs might be. It’s particularly great when they are starting a new job or if you’ve been working together for a while, it’s never too late to ask. You may not be the hiring manager, but everyone can contribute to a more welcoming, inclusive environment at work.
  4. Inclusive education: Inform administrators and staff when you notice something inaccessible or that isn’t inclusive. Oftentimes, systems were created a long time ago and no one took the time to understand whether it was accessible or not. It’s not just on disabled people to advocate for accessibility. 
  5. Collaboration and partnerships: Research what others are doing in your community and join them. Everything is easier when you have a group for support.

Laws and regulations promoting disability inclusion

Laws and regulations play a crucial role in promoting disability inclusion. It would be fantastic if everyone wanted to become more welcoming and provide equal opportunity because it’s the right thing to do. Unfortunately, that’s not usually how positive change comes about. 

Many countries have implemented legislation to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and ensure their inclusion in society. In the US, the primary law is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States. It grants people the right to non-discrimination, access, equality of opportunity, inclusion and full participation in society. 

This law provides a framework for promoting disability inclusion and holding organizations and institutions accountable for providing equal opportunities and access. Again, it is unfortunately not always followed or enforced, which is why it’s important for individuals to care about disability inclusion.

Fun fact: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been ratified by over 180 countries.

Conclusion: The future of disability inclusion

Why disability inclusion is important: disability rights are human rights. Person holding a cardboard sign that says "human rights!"

Disability inclusion is not just a moral imperative; it is a necessity for creating a more equitable and inclusive society. Disability inclusion benefits everyone, not just individuals with disabilities, by creating a more caring, thoughtful society.

Let's strive for a world where disability inclusion is the norm, and individuals with disabilities are fully included, respected, and valued. Together, let's create a society that embraces the abilities of all its members, regardless of disability.

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