Three school-aged boys stand together in a row in a classroom. The boys on either side are angled inward to pay attention to a boy in the middle, who may have a disability. The boys are smiling and happy.

The AID Mnemonic:

Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.

Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

The first stop in the AID mnemonic was autonomy, where we talked about how important it is to protect the choices of people with disabilities. Inclusion is closely related to that. When we include people, they have more choices – and so do their non-disabled peers.

Ways Inclusion Goes Wrong

Inclusion is not as simple as it seems. We already learned that it’s not enough to invite a disabled person to join in. We have to make sure the person can access the environment they’ve been invited to join. This means checking whether venues (both in-person and online) have accessible facilities. It also means checking that accommodations are made so that disabled group members can participate.

All too often, we never even reach the point where we look at access. That’s because we make assumptions (another part of autonomy) that people with disabilities won’t want to participate.

Playgrounds are a great example. Many playgrounds in the Midwestern U.S. are covered in bark mulch. While this works for a lot of children, it is difficult (if not impossible) to move many types of mobility devices on bark mulch – including wheelchairs. Knowing this, a group of children who were headed to the playground might decide not to invite a friend who uses a wheelchair.

But what if these kids had invited their friend to play? Like adults, kids need opportunities to be around different kinds of people. These experiences help us to learn who we are. They help build our core beliefs and identity.

What can we do?

  • DON’T assume that people with disabilities prefer not to be included. Ask and find out!
  • DO think about barriers that will prevent people with disabilities from being included. What can you do to change things?
  • DO listen to people with disabilities and understand their needs (some voices to start with).

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