Inclusion and Commitment

Many people who suffer illness – including mental illness – and disability find that their lives are unpredictable. What we can do this week is not what we can do next week, but we don’t know the details right now. It makes commitment difficult.

One of the easiest ways to exclude ill and disabled people is to require high levels of commitment. This is often an issue around closed working groups, but it can be an issue in all sorts of organisations, even social gatherings. It can impact on who you chose as a speaker for your event, as well.

There’s also a question around how much humiliation a person may have to endure around this. How much personal information is a person going to have to hand over to be cut the slack they need to participate? How much detail are you going to demand about their health issues and the possible implications? Making someone justify why they need adjustments so they can participate can be a really humiliating process and not everyone is keen to go through that, oddly enough.

What’s the humiliation toll going to be if a person has to drop out at short notice? Will you treat them kindly? Or will you get angry with them? That happened to me earlier this year, when I was suddenly extremely ill and had to drop out of an online event. It’s as well I was too ill to be online, because I didn’t see the nasty messages until after an apology had also been sent. I’ve also had some experience of being publicly treated as useless and flakey because my health issues create limitations. Oddly, that was around work that I had done well and on demand. It takes a particularly toxic sort of person to want to publicly humiliate someone for the fact that they have some mental and physical illness to contend with.

Disabled people experience bullying and abuse in all sorts of contexts. Often this is underpinned by an actual belief that the person is lazy, faking it, getting something for nothing, making a fuss or seeking attention. Our media are greatly to blame for creating a culture where this happens, but we all have individual responsibility. I would rather indulge a few lazy people and thus protect the emotional wellbeing of disabled people. I would rather choose kindness where possible, and seek to accommodate, include and enable as many people as possible. Starting from the assumption that people may have genuine issues and no desire to tell you the details is a good first move in this regard.

When we create inclusive environments, we create kinder, gentler spaces for everyone. When we work in ways that support all kinds of participation, we don’t support a culture of martyrdom and burnout – that capitalist approach to life that has us buying, not living. Making a deliberate attempt not to humiliate people is a great way of being more inclusive. People have all kinds of limiting problems, and when we are able to treat that kindly, the world is simply a better place.

The outcomes may not always be ideal. But, given the choice, I’d rather sacrifice an event and save a person than destroy a person’s health for the sake of an event.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

One response to “Inclusion and Commitment

  • M.A.

    This is one of those issues where aging actually helps. I tell people I’m 73 and partially paralyzed (and since my left side, including my face, spasms uncontrollably, they can even tell), and accommodations become easy. Of course, then they talk to me as though I’m 3 years old, but that’s another problem… Invisible disabilities are the worst. Like, “You’re disabled? Prove it!” Good grief. What is it about basic respect and kindness that is so difficult?

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