What does "Inclusion" mean for people with disabilities?

Disability inclusion means including people with disabilities in everyday activities and enabling them to have roles similar to their peers who do not have a disability.

This involves more than simply encouraging people; it requires making sure that adequate policies and practices are in effect in a community or organization, for example, at a university or within a social setting.


How can I best support someone I know with a disability?


1. Ask first and follow their lead

Don't assume people need help. Ask if they need anything to make the process more effective or easier for them.


2. Speak clearly, and listen well

If you are with a person who has a developmental disability or other cognitive issues, use clear sentences, simple words and concrete concepts. Gauge the pace, complexity and vocabulary of your speech to match theirs. Allow people with speech impairments to finish their own sentences. Don’t talk for them or interrupt.


3. Speak directly to people

Make eye contact and speak to people directly, even if someone's personal care attendant or interpreter is with them. When a person who is deaf has an interpreter, the user will look at the interpreter as you are talking. While this is happening,

Focus on your interaction with the user. If you are speaking for some time with a person in a wheelchair, sit down, so they don’t have to strain their neck to look up at you. Do not lean over a person in a wheelchair.


4. Be aware of personal space

Some people who use a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, walker or cane, see these aids as part of their personal space.

Similarly, never start to push someone’s wheelchair without first asking the occupant’s permission. Don’t touch, move or lean on mobility aids. This is also important for safety.


5. Know the difference between necessary education and unnecessary trauma.

Perhaps most importantly of all, do not burden others with the responsibility of educating yourself. It's important to remember that it is not the responsibility of any one person you may know to have to speak on behalf of an entire, diverse community to educate you. Whilst it might seem like an honest question to you, constantly answering questions about your lifestyle can be repetitive and is a form of microaggression. Instead, be proactive in your own learning.


6. Be proactive and don't dwell on mistakes

Doing your own research is one of the many ways that we can create a more inclusive environment, and making an effort to use inclusive language and support others is a small amount of effort that goes a long way. Inevitably, you may get things wrong from time to time, but when someone corrects you or offers you new information, you should thank them rather than endlessly apologising, as this acknowledges the mistake whilst thanking them for taking the time to educate you.