Naturally occurring supports and services in school, neighborhood, and community are something we use every day in life and the greatest reason for advocating for full inclusion. For most of us being included is a right but for some individuals with disabilities it has become a privilege.
Public schools represent the diversity of the community in which one lives. The schools are where we typically acquire the fundamental building blocks for participation in society. It is where we learn to socially interact and coexist with tolerance. Purposeful segregation denies any opportunity to foster tolerances and acceptance in a class room, in a school, or in a community. Inclusion in all things from the beginning is the precursor to being accepted as a part of the whole community. Segregation isolation will become a life sentence and will negate any attempt at achieving a quality of life.
Opportunities for participation, often, must be created if they do not exist. Equal access is a right, and the need is not to create separate, special access, but rather create equal access to all existing opportunities community wide.
Focusing on three things from the beginning helps bring a clearer perspective for a parent. We want our children to be: 1) gainfully employed, 2) live independently, and 3) pursue a quality of life of their own determination.
This simple premise was the catalyst for how I determined my course of action and my focus when advocating for systemic change. I began by seeking an inclusive classroom, then inclusive schools, and now, an inclusive community. In my own community, I have seen the first two become reality. The last still remains elusive, but I continue to hope that someday it will be accomplished.
There must be a zero tolerance policy toward disability discrimination. The time for excuses is past. One cannot claim ignorance with information being so easily accessible. Continued acts of discrimination must not be tolerated.
Until the majority of people realize that disability is a naturally inevitable occurring part of life, and not something unfortunate that happens to “others,” we must remain vigilant toward trends that try, through segregation, to remove civil liberties for individuals with disabilities, and remember that rights are not bestowed they are claimed.