There are countless events throughout history that have made us more aware of exclusion and discrimination. In schools, movies, and books we have all been educated about the ramifications of supremacy. Social media alone is constantly making us more aware with daily graphic videos, photographs, and stories. Awareness is absolutely key but sometimes it can become a barrier when we use it as an excuse to delays us from taking the kind of action necessary to implement change. It is time for all of us to start to implement the necessary action behind what we know.
Is Increasing Awareness Enough?
Pathways does a tremendous amount of training in schools about inclusion. Some districts specifically ask us to do sensitivity training around the topic of disability. We have trained children in some of the schools annually for over 12 years. In some of these districts we train entire grade levels which can be over 450 students in two weeks. The trainings are 90 minutes and are filled with interaction, role playing, and hands on experiences. These schools and children receive training and have established an awareness.
Many of the inclusion trainings we do are done in gyms. In one district, between the Pathways trainings, I usually see about 10 children with more severe disabilities come into use the gym. They are segregated into their own adaptive physical education (PE) class. Next door in another gym are about 30-50 children in a PE class who have received 90 minutes of sensitivity training on how to include those with disabilities. Why are the two PE classes after 12 years of training still segregated into separate gyms?
Don’t Stop With Awareness And Training
Think about the two gyms filled with kids. What a wonderful opportunity to bring a few children, who do not have disabilities, into mentor and participate in the adaptive gym class with children with disabilities. I am not talking about immediate full inclusion but getting started by rotating a few children into the adaptive program to experience PE from a different perspective. The mentors could help develop creative adaptations and look for ways to make PE more inclusive. It is the perfect time to put into action what the students have learned from the sensitivity trainings into real life. There are countless ways to implement inclusion all day…every day. What is stopping us from taking the next step of transforming awareness into action?
Every year I ask the same question, “ Why are we not turning the sensitivity training into action that can bring about authentic inclusion?” Every year I am told they are working on it. It has been 12 years and we are still working on it. What are we waiting for? The knowledge and training is there but there is a consistent lack of action. Knowledge that remains dormant in the minds of people happens far too often. Think of where we would all be if we put half of the what we know into action for inclusion.
Follow Up With A Strong Call to Action
Somewhere along the way people have adopted inclusion as a noun, but that could not be further from the truth. Inclusion is a verb that should always be associated with action. Let's all take the challenge that for every training we do for diversity and inclusion, whether it is business, school, or community, we put into place a strong call to action. Many people are adopting inclusive policies and trainings, but if it does not translate to definitive action that produces change, you need to honestly evaluate why are you making investment in training? Awareness without definitive action or change is a dead end. If you are not translating awareness into action, what is stopping you?
Inclusion is never about what you know. It is about translating what you know into something you do! Share below how you are translating awareness into a strong call to action that is clearly producing the outcome of inclusion you are looking for.
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