So Long Exclusion Hello Inclusion
Universal Design is an Inclusion Solution
Exclusion has been the norm for far too long! I don’t think it’s been on purpose rather a lack of understanding of what needs to change to make inclusion possible. Exclusion is a by-product of not having communities and schools that are truly accessible for all. When we design a new school and we don’t include a playground that is accessible to all students it’s an example of exclusion but this type of exclusion has been normalized.
In order to change this type of exclusion, a mind shift MUST happen. A shift in mindset from “we will try to make it accessible if needed” vs “how can we design this with universal design elements that meet the needs of everyone”. This mindset shift, in my opinion, is key to changing how schools and communities are designed moving forward.
I want to share the truth with all of you. Here is my truth I did not notice these inequities until I had my daughter who was born with Cerebral Palsy. It is 100% shocking to me the number of ways our communities, schools, neighborhoods, parks, government buildings, etc are truly designed with only able-bodied people in mind. I now realize this may be a truth for other people! So we must educate those around us so they can be awakened and have the opportunity to change their perspective. When we know better we must do better.
The first step in changing old ways of thinking and doing things is to understand what universal design is and how it works? The dictionary defines universal design as ”the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.” When new buildings or community areas are designed with universal design in mind it automatically makes these areas more inclusive and accessible. It creates a win-win situation for everyone.
Universal design sends a powerful message of value and belonging. No single person is more important than another, yet that is the message we send when we fail to design schools, buildings, community spaces, etc without access for all.
Nothing will break your heart more than seeing a child who uses a wheelchair off to the side watching all their friends play with nothing to do because the playground was not designed with them in mind. My daughter loves to play with other kids and be social yet so many opportunities are missed due to lack of accessibility and universal design.
Accessible and inclusive playgrounds, parks, and community areas should not be the exception rather the norm. It’s time to change the way we design our world and start putting accessibility at the top of the priority list.
I can’t wait for the day where all people in the community are seen and valued. We need to be a positive voice for change and educate whenever possible for universal design and inclusion.
Every day is a great day to advocate!
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