When talking inclusion a crucial element can easily go overlooked, acceptance. With acceptance inclusion thrives. However, the unknown that often comes along with a disability can make finding acceptance difficult.
Perhaps before I continue I should define what I mean by “acceptance.” Acceptance to me means seeing past the diagnosis, mobility device, or whatever differences the disability in question cause. Sure in certain situations issues related to the disability will arise.
Say you plan a field trip and Jimmy uses a wheelchair. You will end up researching the destination’s accessibility. In an accepting environment you pursue the task with an attitude “I want to meet Jimmy’s needs” as opposed to “troubleshooting the disability.” Basically the disability becomes second nature and the person takes the forefront.
Now to rewind a bit I mentioned the difficulty towards gaining acceptance. Mike and Tim speak to this in their stage show when they recount their first solo adventure together to the mall. Tim noticed all the stares Mike received.
Acceptance proves hard to obtain while encountering constant gawking. Most likely the gawkers held no malice intent. Instead their lacking knowledge about disabilities led to the un-inviting stares. Mike and Tim’s fellow mall patrons focused so much on the wheelchair they failed to see Mike the person. There lays the fundamental barrier to acceptance!
Personally I found shared interests as the most effective battering ram for destroying said barrier. One such interest for me manifests as the Cleveland Indians. Growing up my acceptance barrier involved my inability for self-acceptance. I felt so self-conscious about my cerebral palsy. Yet looking back I realized those feelings momentarily left when I talked to somebody else about Indians baseball. We became two Tribe fans exchanging our thoughts. My cerebral palsy became irrelevant.
Eventually through my college experiences I learned to accept my cerebral palsy. Still overall acceptance stands a continuous pursuit. Allow me to recall a moment from 2014 to demonstrate. Not driving put me in a position to find a ride to my friend James’ wedding last summer. I ended up asking a couple Greg and Stephanie I last spoke to in early 2013 if I could get a ride from them.
Think about the possible awkwardness, especially during the couple hours between the ceremony and reception! I linger around like an outsider, an unsure lurker. Enter the Cleveland Indians! Both big Tribe fans Greg, Stephanie, and I ended up talking much baseball. Shared interests diffused potential awkwardness establishing acceptance.
The shared interest which will neutralize a person’s disability and foster acceptance varies by person. Mike finds acceptance by watching movies, something you would know if you see Mike and Tim’s stage show. A real life example you can introduce into your classroom starting this summer thanks to Making Minds Handicap Accessible: The Classroom Experience. Let Making Minds Handicap Accessible: The Classroom Experience and the accompanying curriculum stir up the conversation to facilitate inclusion and acceptance for your students.