Inclusion is a mutual effort

The workshop was about to end and I was asked, in my role as an expert on inclusion, what is the most difficult barrier to overcome to achieve inclusive work environments.

Photo of a woman in a wheelchair, who is explaining something to a co-worker sitting next to her, on a computer

My answer was exhaustion, which we also know as burnout.

Chronic exhaustion takes away our energy, robs us of purpose and makes us feel like mere productive machines, which, by the way, are finding it increasingly difficult to produce. But perhaps it is worth remembering that one of the great symptoms of burnout is cynicism a kind of somewhat cruel and deliberate disinterest.

Cynicism does not allow us to broaden our perspective; it hampers our empathic capacity, erases our generosity, and thus cancels our inclusive attempts.

In short: we are so burdened and exhausted dealing with ourselves, that we don't have time to make a fairer world for others.

However, there are outstanding cases of people who are making a super effort to cultivate inclusion.

During this workshop that I narrate, it was very interesting to observe a dynamic where a group of people listened to a short 30-second audio. Next, they were asked to put together a description as inclusive as possible of said audio.

Some began to act out the story in front of the camera so that a deaf person could understand it. Another person described the scene in words for the blind audience. There were those who questioned whether actions that were part of the story such as waking up when an alarm sounds or having a coffee in the morning to wake up were also part of other cultures that were not our western cultures. Therefore, the alarm was replaced by the light of dawn and the energy of a coffee was replaced by stretching when waking up.

The group presented their performance to the others. At the end there was a comment: "Your audio description was in English, what if someone in the audience doesn't speak English?"

"It's never enough!" Someone exclaimed. And some people commented on how complex it is to be fully inclusive, as there are many variables in the equation.

Later someone said: "I believe that inclusion should be mutual, that is, that people in a disadvantaged position are proactive and support us in building inclusion."

And I totally agree. We live in a tired and exhausted society, prone to self-centered perceptions. Those of us who want to build inclusion should be the first to pick up the pick and shovel, and even more so, show that practicing inclusion can be easy and of tangible benefit to all, and that we are not just asking for another exhausting effort of a philanthropic nature, but a shift towards the community where we discover that there is enough for everyone.

Pepe Macías