"…All the same, I like Helene and Claude, because they are…well, I don’t know how to put it…they have integrity. They are satisfied with their life, I think, at least they don’t play at being something they’re not. And they have Sophie. Sophie has Down syndrome. I’m not the sort who gets all sentimental around people with Down syndrome the way some people in my family do - they think it’s good manners, even Colombe joins in. The consensual script reads: they are handicapped but they are so endearing, so affectionate, so touching! Personally, I find Sophie’s presence somewhat hard to take: she drools, she cries out, gets moody, has her whims and doesn’t understand anything. But that doesn’t mean I don’t admire Helene and Claude. They themselves admit that she is difficult and that it is a real ordeal to have a daughter with Down syndrome, but they love her and do a great job looking after her, I think."
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
— The Getting of Wisdom: What Critically Reflective Teaching is and Why It’s Important by Stephen Brookfield
Along with my regular job, I am involved in many voluntary initiatives both within and outside my religious and cultural community. For one of the initiatives that I was the Project Manager for, I was thinking of ways to continue marketing the program for the following year after it had already been launched. In this manner, a greater number of community members would know about the program for the future if they are interested. FYI this program was for students from grades 1 to 12 and part of the program required them to complete reports. One of my team members suggested that perhaps we can accept the hardcopies of the reports completed by students at various centres and share them through the e-newsletter that is sent out regularly in our community. I thought this was a fantastic idea! I suggested that perhaps we can scan the reports and send them as JPEGs or PDF files.
I’m so blessed to have a devil’s advocate on my team. She brought up the fact that scanned copies of anything are not accessible to people with disabilities. People who use screen readers and assistive devices cannot read scanned documents. It’s best practice not to do that. If our full-time jobs require us to be accessible and accommodating, why should this not apply to our voluntary initiatives and personal lives? Even though our community is not there yet in terms of accessibility, is it not worth setting an example through this initiative?
I love how this team member said, “we have to walk the talk if this is going to work…inclusion and accessibility is about all of us :).” I agree and I really wish we lived in a more accessible world. Inclusivity should play out like integrity. We shouldn’t compartmentalize how inclusive we are and apply it in certain environments and not others. Likewise, we should not decide to live with integrity in selective spheres of our life. Let’s be consistent with our practices so that they match our ethical framework.
I was sitting beside two near teenagers on the bus today and both were engaged in a discussion about another girl who had ADD in their school. Not that I was eavesdropping…I just cannot help it when my ears perk up to disability related talk. When the girl said, “You know she has ADD?” The boy responded with, “What’s that?” To which she explained, “I dunno, it’s like ADHD…she’s you know…hyper-y.” I’m not going to go into detail about what else they discussed. At this point I tuned out because I knew it was none of my business.
I do want to take a moment to reflect about what children and youth need to be taught and what needs to be modelled:
1) The vocabulary and language for discussing disability
2) How to navigate such discussions in politically correct ways
3) Adopting a comprehensive approach without reducing a person to their behaviours and/or disability
4) Display of respect in the way we speak and act towards others with disabilities, whether they be our peers or not