Inclusion Comes From Within

I first came across the ‘Disability Movement’ when I went to university in 1992. As someone who had gone to a mainstream school and was at an age where I was trying to understand who I was as a disabled person, I looked to the movement for guidance and support. I was very disappointed to the response since they appeared to have a self-loathing for themselves and bitterness towards non-disabled people that never sat well with my positive nature and approach to life.

The next 23 years has seen very little change and I have continually battled against the disability movement and their hostility. While they talk about independent living and inclusion, their behaviour suggests they prefer self-segregation and self-indulgent misery. Their collective argument to everything is more money and that society must be ready to ‘properly’ include disabled people before they are willing to take part fully within society. But of course transport is never accessible enough, employers never have the right attitude and hate crime is always rising.

I have always had a more individualistic view of inclusion. By this, I mean I believe only I can decide if I wish to be included into society. I always had a naivety to what I could and could not do, and I can honestly say that I have always found a way of doing anything that I put my mind to doing. I look back at some of the amazing and often crazy things I did in my life, the traveling and other adventures that are too numerous and interesting to explain here, and I am personally proud that I made the most of my life and I have no regrets.

I do not ask or expect many people to follow in my footsteps, hoping most people can avoid some of the mistakes I have made, but I do want others to have a greater belief in themselves. Inclusion is not about money, although that helps, but rather personal attitude and expectations. People can have all the support in the world and still be excluded from society, because if they do not have the desire to be included within society, it will never happen.

My biggest problem with the current range of welfare benefits and other support for disabled people as that as a whole, they are passive. This means they are simply paid unconditionally with no desire to actively develop the wellbeing and inclusion of disabled people. Money will help people who already have a desire to be included within society, but it does not actively enable or empower disabled people to desire inclusion. This goes for the sainted Independent Living Fund as much as any other pot of money because it only enables existing desires whether that be independent living or simply being looked after by ‘mum’.

If society and politicians are serious about the true and meaningful inclusion of disabled people, and I am yet to be convinced, then we need a whole range of policies within health, employment, education and social care that is focused of delivering people’s own understanding of themselves and what they are capable of doing, enlightening the fighting spirit that I believe exists within everyone. I believe it is also important to recognise when ‘can not’ is actually the personal choice of ‘will not’, which is not always a bad thing as everyone has their own story that can not be necessarily judged by others.

So the key to inclusion is not more money or less social barriers, but a self-belief in one’s self. I feel fortunate that I seemed to have been born with that self belief, or perhaps not allowed others to take it from me, and that in reality I have always included myself within society, whether it was ready or not. But I have never been concerned for myself, but the many disabled people who do not have that self-belief.

from Simon Stevens


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s