Inclusivity is one of those words that I never really understood. I mean, I know it meant to include everyone, to make things fully accessible to all, but I’m an able bodied, middle aged white man. Pretty much everything is accessible to me.
Then I spent 2 years supporting an autistic boy through years 5 and 6 at school and realised many of the lessons were impossible for him. Whether because of classroom noise or the complexity of the work he couldn’t be part of the regular class. He needed extra time to process, better step by step explanations. He needed support. I began to understand inclusivity.
Also I ventured on to Twitter at that time and connected with many people with disabilities or caring for family with disabilities, people like Dan White, a Wickham man with a wonderful, wheel chair using daughter. As he met obstacles in his daughter’s way he fought and campaigned against them. People like him and Mik Scarlett and The Norfolk Loo Lady opened my eyes to what others had to deal with on a daily basis.
I still couldn’t really understand what being on the outside was actually like. I could read of others experiences and empathise but not really understand.
Then Covid 19 entered our lives like a thief in the night and I got a small taste of what it is like to be outside society’s norm.
I couldn’t visit shops, go to the cinema, go to work, drive my car. These things were no longer accessible to me through no fault of my own. I love to go out and draw, sit in parks or woodland or city centres with a sketch pad. That was taken away from me. That hurt. Drawing is the thing I do to help my mental health. It lifts my mood and has done a great job helping me deal with depression for the last 30 years. With that gone my mental health suffered. I could go on but perhaps you’re beginning to see my point now.
For many people who are disabled, elderly and infirm, caring for family members, wheelchair users, autistic people, people with bipolar disorder or chronic depression, people with dementia or arthritis and many more, this was every day life prior to lockdown.
When Covid 19 is finally under control and we are able to once again enjoy all the privileges we took for granted I hope able bodied people like me will remember what we dealt with and be supportive towards efforts towards inclusivity. I hope we will all call for the changes that need to be made so that those who are kept on the fringes of society can take their rightful place as a valued member.
Jesus was a great one for including those on the fringes of society and his church needs to learn the lessons of this lockdown and find ways to move forward. No matter what we are doing we can always do better.