What did you call me?

A brief evening thought from myself and one of my best friends, Lisa.

I have almost weekly discussions with people about terminology around disability; what is politically correct? Medically correct? What will or won’t cause offence? Will different people find different terms offensive?

Accepted terminology rapidly changes with time, much like language develops. This is unfortunately because there are people out there that turn accepted, medical terms into derogatory things and they become offensive.

People get so caught up on how to refer to others, but today I suddenly thought:

Why do we need accepted terms to brand one another?

Everyone is given a name at birth - can’t we just use those to refer to each other? We are all just people, after all.

Unless it is necessary to your profession or day to day life to require medical terminology, why don’t we all just take a step back and remember that we are all people, and we all come in different shapes, sizes, nationalities, abilities. But we also all have different personalities and interests or hobbies.

Why can’t you be defined by the fact you are really fun, or kind, or intelligent?

The diversity of the human race is what makes us wonderful and unique, let’s try and remember that!

To quote that random song I only know because of The Princess Diaries:

Quote saying 'what makes you different, makes you beautiful'

Photo+of+Elle+and+Lisa+ice+skating
 

Keep an eye out for another post by myself and my equally inclusion obsessed friend, Lisa, which will be with you soon!

Thank you for reading the contents of our brains this evening. As always, if you want to co write a post with me about any accessibility/inclusion topics, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Over & out

A Right to Friendship

What do you look for in a friendship?

Someone to trust with your secrets, going to parties, laughing, chatting, dancing with and making exciting plans together? This is the list my wonderful friend Isabella gave me as her favourite things about friendship.

This inclusify post is all about companionship. Combating loneliness is something a number of charities are currently trying to do, but mainly for elderly individuals. This is so important because social isolation can lead to health complications, both mental and physical.

A less addressed topic is loneliness for individuals with diverse learning needs and abilities. My co-writer today is my lovely friend Isabella, who would like to share her experiences around friendship and her transition from school to college. Bella is a 17 year old student and has a brand new part time job in a digital marketing company called Brainlabs; she also has Downs Syndrome.

Quote saying 'sometimes the greatest gift you can give another person is to simply include them'

A lot of people have admitted to me in the past that they do not know how to approach individuals with diverse learning abilities and this is mostly due to a lack of exposure. In my opinion there is one very simple thing you can do, and that is talk to that individual as you would anyone else out in public, at school, at work and so on. People who happen to have disabilities want to and CAN contribute to society to the same effect as anyone else through relationships, employment and in an abundance of other ways.

We have all experienced a time when we’ve approached someone and were rudely dismissed, or happened to notice a subtle eye roll. Just because someone has a neurodiverse condition doesn’t mean they won’t notice, or feel the same way you did in that moment.

Sadly, Bella has had first-hand experience of extreme unkindness as well as the positive friendships she has now. She has agreed to share her stories with me to help me gain awareness for this topic.

She tells me ‘girls bullied me at [my old school], they kicked me [and it made me] sad when people hurt me.’ In the past, people have ‘[called her] names, [but she tries to] focus [on something else] and ignore them [as much as possible even though it still] makes [her] sad.’ Isabella used to attend a mainstream secondary school where sometimes other children would ‘laugh at [her] work [and] call [her] names.’

At Bella’s old school, she ‘didn’t have friends’ but now she ‘likes [her] new college because [she has] lots of friends.’ She is really ‘happy with them and [looks] forward to college to see them and [her] teachers.’

Now Isabella is in a more inclusive environment with kind friends, she ‘knows more social skills’ and feels more confident. Her friends and teachers have given her encouragement to take part in extra-curricular activities such as ‘swimming, boccia, basketball, youth club’ (which she attends with a school friend) and many more after college clubs in which she tells me she has made lots of new friends.

To the right is a photo of a medal Isabella won for a swimming competition that she wanted to share!

Isabella’s mum, Eunice, has kindly offered her thoughts:

A photo of the medal Bella won
Open speech marks

As a parent myself, one of the most difficult things to live with is the loneliness and isolation our young people with disabilities feel.

There have been far too many times when I have walked past the school, and seen my daughter sitting on her own at lunchtimes, whilst groups of girls are all engaging with each other, not aware of my child sitting alone. It never fails to break my heart!

Bella is a very happy, sociable child who would have loved to have been included! School became a real problem, with bullying and exclusion from all things that young people like to do, eg: at the end of term when everyone goes to McDonald’s or out for something to eat, to parties, on outings etc. Bella, and all other girls with special needs were never invited!

My particular heartache is during the school holidays, when I see other young people out and about with their friends and Bella is also not part of this, it is something that makes me wonder why?

Is it fear, lack of understanding? 

Will Bella and those with disabilities be a hindrance?  Or, maybe, an embarrassment to be seen with them?

I do know that, not only Bella, but all children, young people and adults desire to be included and be like their peers and to be able to enjoy life like everyone else!

I am thankful every day for wonderful people like Elle, who does, and wants to make the world inclusive for all with disabilities! Thank you for seeing Bella for who she is and not her disability!

So next time if you meet a person with a disability, just say hello and talk to them!

You will be pleasantly surprised!!

Close speech marks
Quote saying 'in a world where you can be anything, be kind'
 

Kindness also extends past ability – regardless of age, gender or nationality, even if someone is shy or very enthusiastic, no one deserves to be excluded.

Practise kindness and help make society inclusive; I guarantee you will make some new friends and benefit from it equally!

Some organisations that promote inclusion in friendships are the Newman Holiday Trust, who run week long respite holidays for children with disabilities, and Pholk, who run short breaks and days out/regular meet ups that bring people with and without disabilities together in unity as equals. I am a volunteer/soon-to-be volunteer at both of these organisations so please get in touch with any questions :)

Thank you for reading this blog post on ‘A Right to Friendship’, if you have any comments or questions please feel free to get in touch via the contact page on my website!

Elle's headshot

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY ELLE BEANGE AND CO-WRITTEN BY ISABELLA COSTELLO

Bella's headshot
Photo of Bella and Elle smiling together.

Inclusivity Extends Beyond Design...

We are at the very beginning of an accessibility revolution; companies are slowly beginning to consider those with additional needs within their designs (some more so than others!) However, a misconception could be that inclusive principles can only be applied to the design and engineering industries. There are many things everyone can do in their day to day lives, regardless of their profession to make their community more inclusive for all who reside in it.

The concept of inclusivity is in its infancy; if implemented it would have a major impact on the lives of people with disabilities.

This topic (however controversial it may seem, given I am an Inclusive Designer(!)) is an important one to broach. It is one in which many people admit to a lack of understanding in. 

This first inclusify post has been co-written by Ali Lalani, a former Paralympian in Team GB and wheelchair user from London who advocates disability awareness. He wants to help me get the word out about how people can change small things in their day to day lives to be more inclusive.

1.   Pavement Parking

I found this campaign and thought it explained the issue at hand perfectly.

I found this campaign and thought it explained the issue at hand perfectly.

Something I see on a frequent basis is cars parked up on a pavement. While a person with no mobility restrictions could easily pass by on the grass verge or squeeze past the car, a wheelchair user, mobility scooter user and a parent with a pram cannot. The pavement is blocked to them and they may have to cross the (potentially busy) road, with a restricted view just to pass the parked car, which presents a very real danger. What if there isn’t a drop curb for 100m before that car? The individual is massively inconvenienced by this seemingly small offence.

Another thing to be mindful of is blue badge parking and only using accessible bays if you are entitled to. I will be the first to admit that bay parking can be difficult. Sometimes it would be great to have a bigger space to park in, but imagine if you were a blue badge holder who has just driven all the way to a location just to find that all the accessible parking bays have been taken. This would potentially restrict the individual from physically being able to get out of their car, especially if they use some kind of mobility aid, the extra space either side is crucial!

Credit: Michael F. Giangreco, illustration by Kevin Ruelle

2. Going the 'extra mile'

A misconception of being inclusive is that you need to go the extra mile (this is something I will revisit regularly). Quite often, a solution for people with additional needs will be appropriate for anyone. It may even make the process easier for everyone involved. I realise this is a difficult concept to take out of context, so to the left is a beautifully illustrated example!

3. Wheelchair Accessible Taxis

It's late, you stumble out of the train station (perhaps after a few drinks!) and you see the taxi rank up ahead. The first taxi in the queue is an accessible cab, you jump in, thinking nothing of it, it's just a cab, right? 

Unfortunately, wrong. 

Accessible cabs are few and far between; once I tried to book on behalf of someone and was informed that the next available bookable accessible cab was in 16 hours time. If you have the option, leave the accessible cabs to those who require them. Imagine how difficult it would be to be refused such a basic thing that most take for granted, it not only causes frustration but also can ruin plans. 

4. Accessible bathrooms

An obvious one, but important to mention. It might be tempting to just run into the accessible toilet when you are out in public, especially if there is a long queue for the bathroom, but please be mindful that someone may come along who needs to use this bathroom who does not have the option to wait or use the standard public facilities.

5. Let’s talk ramps

Imagine if your friends have arranged a big night out together, you’d spent hours getting ready and were excited for a fun evening. You arrive at the venue but there is no way of getting into the building, your night has been ruined by this obstacle which has an easy solution (had it been considered beforehand!).

If you own a business which requires visitors or employees to come in and out of the building, it is essential that it is accessible, or have things put in place to ensure that the building is as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. 

Unless it is very old, your building is likely to adhere to building accessibility regulations. However, ticking the boxes for this does not necessarily mean your establishment is accessible.

Step free access to the building is so crucial. Not only will you lose custom to those who cannot enter, you may lose business from family and friends of people with limited mobility through word of mouth. Aside from the fact that you may lose business, it is also important to consider that the individual who cannot gain access is now disabled by their environment. 

If the building does not have a ramp, a final (much less ideal) alternative would be investing in a portable ramp. Ramps can admittedly be pricey, but remember that it is an investment and you will be building your business up by allowing the maximum amount of people in. It is of mutual benefit. Lastly, while it is important to have a ramp, it is also important to offer stepped access as some individuals will struggle with walking up the incline of a ramp.

and that concludes my very first Inclusify blog post! How did I do?!

If you have any questions about how to be more inclusive in your day to day life, or would like to make any suggestions (I welcome any feedback!) Please don't hesitate to get in touch through the contact section of my website. 

Photo of me (Elle - the author)

This post was written by
elle beange and co-written
by ali lalani.

Photo of Ali (the co-author)