Celebrating Disability and the Importance of Inclusivity

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Written By Graeme Innes

The international Day of People with a Disability is important in reflecting the growth of inclusivity and recognising the achievements of people with a disability.

The one constant in the lives of the twins Sofia and Nadia was their Nan. She had been there for the 23 years of their lives.

Their father had returned to his country of birth when they were six months old, and they didn’t really remember him. Their mother had been in her very full-time banking executive role until cancer had taken her- eight weeks after the diagnosis – three years ago. But Nan was still around, her warm bubbly presence regularly erupting from her wheelchair. Cuddles were abundant, and good advice always available when asked for.

When Sofia and Nadia announced their engagements on their 22nd birthdays Nan was not concerned. Both relationships were solid, their husbands-to-be loving, caring, and established in their careers. The wedding dates were set for just over a year later, two weeks apart.

For both young women, the question of accessibility to the wedding venues was paramount. Sofia, the psychology graduate and ‘Ms Detail’, visited the reception venue and walked through the level access at the front door. Nadia, with regular time overseas for her violin scholarship, accepted the caterer’s and her fiancé’s assurance that Nan could get into the venue.

Sofia’s big day arrived, Nan wheeled down the aisle with her and glowed in the reflected glory as part of the receiving line at the reception.

Nadia’s ceremony was a repeat of the walk, but the reception was different. When she arrived at the beautiful harbour-side venue Nan was greeted by a 15-step spiral staircase where the receiving line would take place. Nan’s access was through the kitchen, down in the food elevator. She and watched sadly from the bottom of the stairs as the receiving line took place above her.

One Day or Every Day

The International Day of People with Disabilities, on 3 December each year, is used to celebrate progress – for us as people with disabilities – towards inclusion. Progress towards the day when Nan’s sad experience, and the day-to-day experience of many of us, will be a thing of the past.

Some in the sector feel that we should be inclusive every day, not just on the international day, but the day celebrates the inclusion achieved throughout the year.

The Copy Collective

At The Copy Collective inclusion is just part of taking care of business. Reasonable adjustments are made for people with disabilities. Not as something “special” but in the same way that issues relating to gender, parent-hood etc are taken into account. People have flexible working hours, and work in environments that suit their needs. Accessibility is just part of the high-quality product which TCC delivers. Communication is in the person’s format of choice. And venues used for consultations and meetings comply with access standards.

Why is this the case? First because it’s just the right thing to do. Second because it’s good for business – why would you exclude 20 per cent of market share. Third because all means all, and The Copy Collective is a business which includes everyone.

Moving Forward

The International Day of People with Disabilities provides us all with the chance to consider how we have moved towards inclusion during the year. Why don’t you join The Copy Collective by including us as people with disabilities, rather than just having us walk ′or wheel′ beside you? Let’s make Nan’s wedding experience, and those of many others with disabilities, something we consign to the shameful page in our history.

By Graeme Innes– Graeme Innes AM is the former Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner and now works as a company director and consultant.