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Are you and your company fully inclusive?: Things I’ve learned from being friends with a very special person.

I’m pretty sure you and your company do not discriminate anyone by their race / sex / religion / sexuality / social background / physique.


Do one thing for me and ask yourselves this question; are we really prepared to welcome anyone to our homes and offices? Think about it twice, hint: “I can get there on my 4 wheel drive. However, your front-door steps will never let me in”.

 

Correct! I am talking about someone with a disability. Let's learn a little more about this subject.

 

Have you noticed how in some places this sign already changed?

 

Inclusive 1

 

Why? because the first one represented a person sitting, no movement, perhaps incapable of it? The second sign empowers the person sitting in the wheelchair with mobility. Just like words, images have meaning.

 

Atypical on Netflix

Atypical on Netflix.

  

There are two types of disabilities, mental and physical:

  • Autism is one of the first types which has gained more popularity and exposure in the past 10 years with shows about it on Netflix. These people are commonly very smart and due to their condition they need to get things done in a systematic and organized manner, doesn't this sound like a star employee? maybe they tend to need quieter spaces to work or simply they put some headsets on.
  • Cerebral Palsy (CP from now on) can affect a few or many motor functionalities (arms, legs, speaking) making them uncoordinated or simply weak in their extremities, but once again, very smart people, especially because they grew up in a challenging environment not designed for them, they learned how to do things differently, to accomplish despite adversity.

 

A friend of mine has CP and I’ve known him for quite some time. I have heard his stories, I have seen his struggles on a daily basis, and noticed other people's misconceptions about them that are just not good news for them, but once you get to know them you will understand their unique needs and how it is only logical what their complaints or wishes are for the rest of society. We do have plenty to learn from them.

 

My friend is mostly using crunches or a wheelchair. Crunches are his best ally –also because this guy is very independent and a fighter who likes putting a lot more effort into his own movement!– and when walking with him in the city I often notice people' stares for curiosity and extreme politeness at times and rudeness or loss of patience when they don’t simply get it. One of the most annoying things for my friend is whenever he is in a wheelchair with a companion friend, people tend to always interact with the companion only.

 

Let me share this short story to explain a little further:

 

We are traveling together and once at the airport staff would ask me if he needs help, they would request and hand me his passport, they would ask me for the destination he is bound to, all the basic questions we usually get to ourselves, the person in question, this makes them feel invalidated as if they were kids under an adult’s wing. After our flight landed we were trying to access our inclusive Airbnb room (that's how it was classified on the app), but for our surprise, there's a step just upfront to enter the building. Companions can always help at some degree but the world should not design things as if they were always alongside another person. They travel alone, and they commute to offices, they do go out to have fun, just like all of us. 

 

In conclusion, to call yourself or your company inclusive you should mark below two checkboxes:

  • Treatment; find out a little about their condition. If not, ask them, they are ok with questions vs. assumptions. 
  • A wheelchair can travel anywhere without bumping into a step unless there is an elevator serving the need to go up or down.
Luis M.

Lead Systems engineer. Lego fan and collector. Runner. Psychology and philosophy enthusiast. Enneagram type 5 and a cancer sign.

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