Better late than never

Dear readers,

After a short sejour consisting of deadlines, a conference and nearly finishing a workshop to present (on Saturday!), another post is ready to go live. Last week I was away on a conference about Inclusion and Diversity as part of International Study Week in Siegen. I was really looking forward to going, not only because it would be like a mini holiday after drowning in systematic review proposals, dissertation proposals and ethics checklists but also because anyone who knows me will know how much I love Germany and jump at any chance to go back again and be a quasi-German. The conference was really interesting and it was great to hear so many different opinions, stances and progress from across the world. It was definitely food for thought.

There was one thing that has stuck with me ever since: during the panel session on the final day in the auditorium, the following question arose out of the discussion: Are some people more important than others (perhaps inherently), are we all truly equal? I have to admit when I heard this question I immediately grabbed a pen and paper and started writing (I didn't want to debate off an a tangent with esteemed academics). My initial gut feeling was no. No one is more important than anyone else (and continued off on a theological tangent of we are all equal in God's eyes.) My thought is that it is society that constructs importance, whether we see the person requiring and receiving extra adaptations as more important as their needs accommodated to, or the general population being more important as their needs are already being met. The way we define importance in a hierarchical manner needs to be challenged, so that do not see people only in terms of importance. I find seeing people in terms of importance to be rather reductionist (reducing them to basic components and ignoring complexities) and homogenous (seeing a group of people as all identical).

Also inclusion and importance are two words I don't think sit well together. Isn't part of the point of inclusion equality to access, which places importance to the side? Inclusion for me is including all individuals, irrelevant of background, capacity or experience, so that we together can all have the same level of access to whatever is being offered. This could be schooling, after school activities, faith, hobbies and interests, employment, whatever basically is being offered. Inclusion I also do not think is a privilege. I believe that denying groups or individuals from any of the above is outrageous. We as humans underestimate the value of choice and participation when we do not have to struggle to access it. I think importance is the wrong word we are using in this context; getting caught up on importance is so easy as it orders and defines.

Another comment that was passed during this discussion (and therefore take no credit for but is a fabulous comment) is the the one thing we have in common is diversity. Going beyond the framework of disability, we are all so incredibly diverse. We all have different experiences, learning styles (I myself being a cross being visual and kinaesthetic), preferences, abilities, strengths, cultural backgrounds... need I continue. Disability as a phenomena is only one constraint, yet we are so keen to to only see that label rather than the person as a whole sometimes in a holistic fashion. Yes, disability may and will affect many areas of an individuals life and will inevitably not be contained to one little box, but there is so much more to an individual than one label.

Will be back to report on my first workshop (!) after Saturday.
Alles Liebe


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