Inclusion in Education
by Chantel Bongiovanni.
Starting out school, most kids are bright-eyed, nervous, and excited. There can be an apprehension of whether school will go well. When it’s a student with disability, those apprehensions might be slightly different. There could be questions like, will they accept me? Will I get the support I need? It’s a jumble of itself of different needs, access requirements and social acceptance. It begs the question; how do we know when we’re included?
Inclusion is sometimes pitched as a journey. It’s called that because, perhaps we aren’t going to arrive at ‘included’ without struggle. We unfortunately don’t live in a world where we can assume anything comes ready for disability.
When I started school, things didn’t just magically become accessible. I didn’t find acceptance easily. The move to inclusion was gradual and took time. It involved conversations and understanding from those around me. It’s something that’s still happening, even as an adult. Inclusion is a journey because the world around you won’t always have everything you need to be included.
To become included, there will be mishaps and some trial and error till the world around you finally starts working with you. Sometimes we have to ask and keep asking.
There is an assumption that inclusion and accessibility are the one and the same. But they are two aspects of the experience of disability that lead to each other. Inclusion and access work together, we can’t have one without the other. We can have access without inclusion, but we can’t have inclusion without access.
Access is about that physical space, having things aligned in a way that means when you are in that space that you can be physically in it. But just because you’re in that space, it doesn’t mean you’re included. Inclusion is something different entirely. To be included, combines access with meaningfully feeling like you belong.
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