Celebrating the lesser spotted signs of inclusion

Text ‘Everyone Matters’ appearing behind ripped brown paper.

Commitment, true commitment, to diversity and inclusion isn’t seen all that often. And lack of inclusion has a significant impact on everyday lives. Social media means that we’re now privy to glimpses into other peoples lives in a way never experienced before. And it highlights that we have an awful lot to learn. Twitter, in particular, often leaves me feeling demoralised and depressed. People are dealing with everyday struggles over freedoms that so many of us take for granted. People in wheelchairs are still being moved by other people without consent. Parents are still unable to access changing places toilets for their disabled children. And not so long ago black ballet dancers had to hand paint their ballet slippers to match their skin tone. Because only pink slippers were available.

We have a long way to go and a lot to learn about inclusion. When you experience a lack of inclusion yourself or see its effect on someone you love, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed by anger. The unfairness of the situation grates. On the flip side, when you experience the simple joy of having your basic human needs met when you’re included, it’s like winning the jackpot. It shouldn’t be rare. But it is.

And like the lesser spotted woodpecker, we should celebrate it when we do see it. Here are a few small signs that change IS happening.

Invisible disabilities are more talked about…

Image shows symbols of a wheelchair, male and female with the words ‘Not every disability is visible’

The great signage debate has been ongoing in disability circles for some time. As our awareness of hidden disabilities increases, some feel a wheelchair symbol is no longer fit for purpose. But what symbol should we use? How can we include everyone? Such debate often paralyses decision making. So it made me smile when I wandered into Morrisons and saw the sign they’ve added to their toilet door. Simple, but a clear reminder that not all disabilities are visible. And it’s small reminders like this that help change culture. I haven’t seen a supermarket with a changing place toilet yet, but I hope to see that change soon.

More and more people are leading by example…

Business leaders are now being more open about the disabilities or differences that they have. Very often they can contribute these to their success. Mental health is beginning to lose its stigma. Awareness of inclusion is evident more often in everyday moments. Evenbreak’s Director, Jane Hatton, told us about one of these moments just last week. Jane is unable to sit for long periods and often attends events where she’ll be standing alone at a high table. This means she can attend the event. But during a dinner event, eating alone can be rather isolating, especially when you’re peering over, well, your peers! Imagine her surprise when one of her peers joined her at her table for the meal. Inclusion doesn’t need to have an accompanying policy to be effective.

‘Quiet hours’ are quietly increasing across UK stores and entertainment venues…

Shopping, soft play and theatre crowds can be stressful experiences for the best of us. But for individuals on the autistic spectrum the noise, glaring lights or proximity of people can lead to sensory overload. The accompanying distress it causes can be profound. Imagine being unable to access supermarkets, theatres, shopping centres? Happily, stores and venues are catching on that the purple pound is worth rather a lot. We are now seeing quiet hours being introduced in trial schemes across the UK. We’re yet to see it standardised in every supermarket. And certainly not with the necessary regularity and reliability. But it’s a start. And I for one am celebrating.


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