Morrison’s, for having only one hour for only one week a year ‘autism friendly’ is not inclusive. Marks and Spencer’s, because you create one range for disabled children but don’t make your stores disabled children friendly, doesn’t make you inclusive. Rimmel just because you have a women of colour as the face of your foundation doesn’t make you inclusive, your other products aren’t person of colour friendly. Play parks which have disabled swings with no real way to access and use it YOU ARE DEFINITELY NOT INCLUSIVE.
Please read everything I have to say before you judge me or tell me I’m discrediting any steps that are being made towards diversity and inclusivity. Please let me express myself fully before you take what I have just said the wrong way.
If you’re reading this post and you don’t really understand what I’m talking about then don’t worry I will take a few steps back and fill you in; you could say I’m including you (I’m sorry I will stop trying to be funny). The official definition of inclusivity is “an intention or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who are handicapped or learning-disabled, or racial and sexual minorities. To me inclusivity means giving everybody a chance to be involved in something and taking other people’s needs into consideration to allow them to be a part of it all. The idea of being an inclusive brand or being inclusive in general is that you have respect for all people and want to make sure that they can all have the option to use whatever you’re providing. For example, in the make up industry, an inclusive brand will factor in things such as age, skin tone, skin colour, accessibility to product, cultural differences (ingredients) moral differences (animal testing etc) and skin type into every single launch so that idealistically all people interested in the launch can use it.
The trend of inclusivity is only a recent thing, I’m not sure whether this is some form of marketing stunt or whether brands are becoming more aware of their faults because of social media and more people speaking out.
If you have read a few of my blog posts you will be aware that I work with children of all abilities, however I work especially close with a child with severe autism. This does not mean I am an expert, but being a nanny for four days a week means you come across these uncertainties of inclusivity. I can only speak from one perspective on this so I have asked whether I can use the story and campaigns of other people to really explain my point.
To start this whole post off I would like to talk about my background with the inclusivity battle and my experiences with the young boy I work with who has severe autism, let’s call him A. A has autism, Global Developmental Delay Disorder, and ADHD, this is a fair concoction of additional needs that need to be catered for. He struggles with sensory issues such as too loud of noises and crowds, with his own aggression and feelings and he is pre-verbal which means he is unable to communicate his feelings effectively with words. So even at home we have our own battles to face, never mind in the big bad world. I must say we have been to many a place on our three year journey so far which have been accepting and understanding of A’s needs and have made some concessions to help keep him safe and happy, but there are far too many establishments that don’t give you this right and believe it is just a privilege. Something that we regularly have to be aware of is how many exits a place has and how we can make sure A does not escape, this is our first priority as he does not have any sense of danger and so it can be very risky for him to get out of a place without us knowing. All of the local play parks where A should be able to play in have 2 or more exits that do not close from either the outside with a latch or have a latch at all, this is extremely dangerous for children like A as they can get out as freely as possible. “Why don’t you stand by the gate?” You ask, well you see the gates are never any close together and the time it would take me to get from one side of the park to the other would be the same amount of time it would take for him to be in the road and under a car. “Just follow him around closely and don’t let him near the gate” that’s an option but A gets huge anxiety by not being able to run around and being hovered over because he feels trapped which can lead to meltdown. I shouldn’t have to bring him to a meltdown almost every time we go to a park just because the councils or companies building the areas can’t do the research and consider the needs of all types of children and incorporate them into their project. He is 6 years old and should be allowed to play freely in a park without being in danger, he shouldn’t have to learn to hate parks or not be allowed to go to them because he cannot be included. Whilst we’re on the subject of parks I would like to personally speak to the human being who installed a wheelchair access swing which is locked and has left no instruction on how to unlock it: exhibit A.
Last year I came across an Instagram account called Mum on a Mission, this account is run by Laura who has a son with physical disabilities. Throughout 2018 she talked about how she was shopping in marks and Spencer’s and found herself unable to change her son because there was just no place for it. She asked the staff if they had a changing place toilet for people with disabilities and they informed her she will have to use the floor as he is too big for the baby changing station. The fact that in this day and age people with disabilities are having to be changed on the dirty toilet floors is unacceptable. Laura then continued on to get in touch with different people of higher positions within Marks and Spencer’s about the possibilities of them having changing places toilets for people with disabilities to use and they told her that it was a health and safety risk to have a changing table and hoist installed. This was the same brand that we’re releasing a range of clothes especially for children with physical disabilities yet weren’t going to make an effort for that target audience. This really got me thinking about truly inclusive brands are, you know the giants of business that make the billions of pounds every year. In IKEA you can buy a fully adapted changing place toilet for less than £4,000, for M&S that is absolutely nothing to help make a difference for these people’s lives. So if you care and have the time to advocate for people who can’t advocate for themselves follow Laura’s Instagram and see what you can do to help even if it’s just to sign a petition or two.
Another area where inclusivity is an issue is in the media such as films and TV shows. An example where I have seen this is the representation of autism in the media, this is something I have really noticed ever since working with a young boy with severe autism and him not being how I expected because of the way autism is portrayed in films and on TV. Think of shows or movies which include an autistic character. Let me guess Rainman/Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night/Atypical? These are all about one part of the autistic spectrum, the higher functioning end of it. Now I’m not discrediting this because it is a start and this representation is also needed however for a lot of people this is the only idea of autism they have. In the grand scheme of things this is a very narrow view point of something as broad as autism. On one hand I am grateful of these shows as they give people who may never meet a person with autism an idea of what it is however it teaches them that autism should be a certain way and it can be difficult to challenge that once it’s been planted. A reason why I think the showing of other parts of the autistic spectrum would be so incredibly valuable is because when that is not shown people are unaware of it. For example if a child with severe autism is having a meltdown where they’re kicking and screaming people will not recognise this as signs of autism and therefore will become narrow minded and judgemental. This may seem like a small consequence but for the person having the meltdown or dealing with the consequence of the meltdown it can become distressing and intimidating. If people don’t understand it or know anything about it they can make the situation harder than it needs to be. With acceptance comes respect, and respect leads to a more positive outlook and more positive outcome of a situation.
Another problem with these shows only showing one type of autism is the negative stereotypes which come from that, if someone only sees one part of autism they can then form prejudice against all people with autism that don’t fit that criteria. They may cause upset and anxiety because of them only seeing the stereotypes and not the person behind the autism. It can become quite harmful and toxic to the person with autism because they are not seen for who they are but as a few traits someone saw on a show once, which is not how anybody should be treated.
In the early years sector inclusivity is such a huge part of our practice, we are constantly asked how we can adapt what we are doing to include everyone and cater to all needs within the setting. This is because all children deserve opportunities to succeed and reach their potential regardless of abilities, age, gender, sex, race or culture. We’re getting pretty good with the gender, race and culture part but the ability part not so much. Within our education system there are still so many problems with different ability children and how to cater to their needs effectively due to lack of funding. This problem can mean that children who would benefit from SEN schools are unable to attend them due to not being ‘disabled enough for it’, however them children are ‘too disabled’ to go to mainstream schools so they get swept away in the system and thrown out at the other end with a very minimal education because the mainstream couldn’t help them. This issue also underlines the debates in seclusion and the way children with disabilities or SEN are portrayed to other children. It is a hard balance which we as a sector are still trying to find.
These are just a few areas of the inclusivity debate I wanted to touch on because it is something I believe so important. It is something I want to teach the children I look after and I want to show it in all areas of my practice because people deserve to be included. The groups of people who are usually excluded in life have their own battles to overcome without society putting up more barriers for them. So if you got this far I am so grateful for you taking your time to read this and I hope it was insightful for you. I hope that it has got you thinking about inclusivity and how important it really is. If you did get this far please leave me a comment telling me one way you think inclusivity can be done better in any aspect of life and one way you have or haven’t been included by a big brand or company.
Thank you all so much for reading today and I hope to see you around these parts again soon!