This I Believe

Jennifer - Savannah, Tennessee
Entered on February 12, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: community

I believe in inclusion

I believe in an inclusive community.

Throughout history we have witnessed the struggle of certain groups in our society to be accepted, to succeed, to blend in. Most groups we associate with this struggle with are defined by race, religion, or sex, however there is an important group of people we still segregate without realizing. A group of people that transcends race, religion, and sex.

The Census reports that eighteen percent of the population has some sort of disability, and twelve percent has a severe disability. Do you actually interact with or even see people with disabilities, severe or otherwise, that often in your life? How many times have you seen a person with a disability and been to scared or intimidated to speak with them or offer them help?

In college, I began to work with my first student with autism, a girl only 1 year younger than I, did I realize I rarely saw people with disabilities in my community. I also realized that when I took her out into my community, a community I loved being a part of, we faced rejection more often than not. She was often messy when eating and sometimes yelled out and bit herself. People were terrified to come near her and often gave me looks as if to say, “How dare you bring this disruption into my world?” I loved my student and was heartbroken every time we endured these incidents. I continue to work with people with disabilities and continue to get this reaction when in the community.

The most important lesson I have learned through my work with autism and other disabilities is that we cannot continue to segregate people with disabilities from the rest of our community. People with disabilities are fighting to be more included, however it is often a silent fight, relegated to the back of people’s thought because we assume that people with severe disabilities don’t realize they aren’t being included.

A community is a group of people who live in the same area and share culture, heritage, and experiences. A community includes all people, not just people who function like the majority. Every time I work with a person with disabilities, I am reminded of all the ways you can define and recognize abilities. Every time I am in my community, I wish to see more people accepting those with disabilities. I look forward to a time when I know that I can bring a person with a severe disability in my community and people not only accept that person, but want to interact with them. I love all my students and clients and want everyone who sees them to love them as well. Just as I love all others in my community.

I believe in inclusion. I believe in success. I believe in community.