Inclusion starts by placing people together in the same classroom or environment. Emphasize “starts.” After all if the person who uses a mobility device or speaks with a speech impediment goes ignored, what good does the inclusion do? From my experiences living with mild cerebral palsy, I found speaking up can make an inclusive environment thrive.
Now surely compared to those with more severe CP my mild cerebral palsy leads to less obvious barriers to inclusion. For example, I know Mike encountered a moment in school where during a discussion he shocked classmates. “He can talk?!” remarked the flabbergasted student to Tim. If a student makes the crazy assumption the student in the wheelchair can’t talk, the likelihood for a casual conversation between the two students stands no chance. Allow me to return to that a little later. First I wish to share a story spotlighting my less obvious barriers.
My barriers to inclusion approach in sneaky fashion, like ninjas on a mission to jump out at a precise moment and create awkwardness. Let me demonstrate by alluding to an instance I recall in my memoir, Off Balanced. Please travel with me back to June 6th, 2005, the day I graduated high school.
After my mother dropped me off at my high school’s gym entrance I ascended the three small steps into the building. Without a handrail to accompany the steps I completed the task slowly yet confidently. Inside the gym building I checked in and received my boutonniere. I turned around to exit the building so I could get onto the assigned bus which would take my fellow graduates and I to the graduation venue.
Suddenly I faced those three small steps again. Descending steps without a handrail remains significantly harder for me than ascending without a handrail. Looking around I thought about asking a peer for assistance but in the end I felt too embarrassed. Thankfully I descended successfully.
While I succeeded going down those steps without falling, I do not recommend others take similar risks. Rather I reiterate said story here to demonstrate a time where speaking up proved a better option. In college I learned to embrace my cerebral palsy. As a result I came to terms with when I need to ask for help and I began doing so void any embarrassment.
Essentially I found my voice, enabling me to speak up and thrive in an inclusive environment. Whether asking friends at a baseball game to help me take my food back to our seats or asking for a hand to navigate a snowy landscape I ask unashamed.
Still, learning to speak up and to not feel ashamed became a lesson I learned over 18 years. Hence one reason I feel very proud to work with Handicap This Productions. Through revisiting real life experiences Mike and Tim’s stage show helps those with disabilities find their voices, allowing those with disabilities too to speak up and enjoy thriving inclusion.
Considering Making Minds Handicap Accessible: The Classroom Experience will soon let high school teachers bring this empowering show straight into high school classrooms via streaming video only multiples the impact Mike and Tim will make getting inclusion to thrive to whole new levels. Such a prospect excites me and I know everyone else on the Handicap This team. Take a moment to see what all Making Minds Handicap Accessible: The Classroom Experience entails and contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. I’m confident he will want you to reach out.