The best thing someone said to me recently? Inclusion is the antidote to division in the world.
No, seriously. Think about it. The world is a nasty place, filled with hateful thoughts and hateful actions. The world is also a judgmental place with assumptions made about people by people, each and every day. The world is filled with unkind language and those who use language that encourages hateful thinking and exclusion.
That’s heavy. But today in 2020, it feels especially true. And not only is the world not such a nice place, it’s almost certainly not inclusive and only barely accessible.
I know, I know. You’re saying, “but things are so much better, no?”
I guess so.
For as much as we’ve moved forward in our awareness of the diverse needs of all people as well as those living with disabilities, we’re still behind in seeing inclusion as not just a social imperative but as that thing that will make the world a better place.
And it goes deeper than just building awareness and acceptance. We need to work on kindness to others along with using positive and accepting language. We need to push past our fears and misperceptions about disability so that our communities, our schools, our places of prayer, and our workplaces can include those who aren’t “like us.’
Difference is what it’s all about. It’s what makes the world so fabulously interesting, from cultural and gender diversity to traveling to far flung places and eating new and unusual foods. We yearn to discover new things and yet we hesitate to appreciate the differences in front of us every day.
Appreciating and enjoying difference can and should be an enriching part of our daily lives.
Imagine the possibilities.
We need to take down those walls of assumption. Those obstacles that we created that led to exclusion and separation, segregation and presumptions about who can and who can’t. We made them. We can dismantle them – together, as a caring and diverse community – and make our world a kinder and gentler place.
Beth Steinberg is the co-founder of Shutaf Inclusion Programs in Jerusalem, offering year-round, informal-education activities for children, teens, and young adults with disabilities. At Shutaf day camps and evening programs, participants of all abilities and all cultural backgrounds are welcomed and included. Beth accepted the 2017 Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize in the community-nonprofit category for creating and building Shutaf with co-founder Miriam Avraham. Beth teaches and writes about disability issues and the parenting experience, and is also the artistic director of Theater in the Rough, creating new kinds of theatrical experiences in Jerusalem.