Inclusion is not a matter for people with disabilities or minorities, it is a matter of sensations. All of us at some point have felt included and excluded, we have all felt that we belong to something or have experienced rejection. All of us, at some point, will be in a disadvantaged position too, be it for work, health, economic, political, climatic, technological reasons, and a host of other factors, and we will be yearning to be included, so one thing is for sure: inclusion concerns everyone.
Irrelevance is the source of exclusion. When something is irrelevant to us, we simply put it out of our focus and forget about it. The vast majority of people with disabilities play an irrelevant role for a utilitarian society. Nobody expects something extremely significant from us: neither for a great scientist to emerge, nor for an architect to revolutionize cities, nor for an engineer to innovate in technology ... The vast majority of society does not even expect to see people with disabilities working, studying, or being an active part of social and cultural life.
In reality, the opposite is true. People are still astonished when we are by their side, in a school, company, park or public place. Let's be honest, society still thinks that our role in life is to stay at home, "safe”, living off the charity of the government or our family, oblivious to social dynamics.
During this pandemic, you may have had the misfortune of becoming professionally irrelevant; Perhaps you worked for sectors that were affected by the pandemic such as gastronomy, tourism and many others, perhaps your job disappeared due to economic inactivity and you were no longer necessary. Thousands and thousands of people were faced with professional irrelevance and today they go through hardships to support themselves and their families financially, without forgetting the very serious blow that is losing your professional identity and your productive role in society.
As a person with a disability, I can attest that isolation is one of the most common conditions resulting from social exclusion. There are three main causes of this condition: first, because our family or close ones, in an effort to protect us, impose isolation on us, thinking that we will be safer at home than in contact with society.
Second, when we impose self-confinement motivated by our low self-esteem and our fear of being the target of comments in daily interaction.
Finally, the isolation imposed by physical and psychological barriers such as architectural conditions that hinder the mobility of people with disabilities, the lack of accessible transportation, or the lack of educational, labor, and cultural inclusion.
You have been at home for several weeks, today you know the despair and anguish that isolation causes. For a few weeks or months, you have felt firsthand what it means to cut back on your interactions and be removed from society.
Discrimination is the favorite daughter of the belief of irrelevance; it is the direct or indirect behavior that emerges from that mentality. Convinced that a person is limited by her disability and that she does not have any transcendental role to play in society, behaviors arise that disqualify us, that prejudge us, that exclude us and that do not allow us to be part of life.
The pandemic has triggered the discriminatory behaviors of some people. For example, when we move away from a person who is not wearing the mask, when we refuse to interact with a person who had the virus, or reaching the extreme, of those who have physically attacked the health personnel who treat Covid cases. If you have somehow felt discriminated against or segregated by someone in this pandemic, now you have an idea of what it feels like.
The current pandemic could become the best intensive and experiential inclusion course and teach us some great lessons in our own flesh to better understand the lives of those who have been permanently disadvantaged, and encourage us to improve their conditions, be driven by an altruistic mentality, or a selfish mentality that understands that one day we will all be at a disadvantage position.
By Pepe Macías