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Inclusion Should Be a Natural Right: A Personal Perspective 

by Aleasa Word, FAACT’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

April 2024

Some days I choose to stay away from social media, though much of my work depends on being in tune with what is happening and accessible to those looking for support. Coaching others on ways to be more inclusive or how to deal with life when they aren’t included is part of my passion to inspire hope in the world. There are days when, like many of you, I feel burnout on the horizon, so I swiftly shift gears to ensure that I am my best self. The truth is, it would be hard for me to advocate, educate, and serve others if I was not. It doesn’t mean that I don’t share similar frustrations as others. However, I try to look at those frustrations as opportunities to help leave people better than I found them.

In this quest, I can’t be naïve to the climate we are living in where DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) strategies are under attack and being labeled “divisive.” Sadly, some of the communities and institutions we find ourselves interacting with are impacted by this shift. As an advocate for inclusivity, it is vital to challenge misconceptions and champion policies that uphold DEIB for everyone, regardless of what dimension of diversity they identify with. This includes advocating for accessible healthcare, promoting inclusive education and employment practices, and cultivating a culture of empathy and understanding.

This also means helping people everywhere take a moment to pause and envision themselves in the shoes of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people who simply want to be seen as human and given the same opportunities as everyone else. This daily experience in life should not be where they are discriminated against because of a skin tone they were born with or an orientation they naturally experience.

To help others understand why this is so important, imagine walking outside every day and being your best self—and being excluded from programs and services or judged more harshly at work or school than your peers who are of a different race or orientation than you. That is the lived experience of many people in this country, despite those in opposition of DEIB solutions trying to negate these experiences and deem them as imaginary. This can leave people in a position of unfair treatment at the hands of others who subsequently ignore their own natural privilege to feel included and accepted without judgement. It is unconscionable to think that this is ok.

How did we go so far backward as a society? How can we not see what is happening today and think that the separations of the old aren’t coming back with a vengeance without regard for who stands in their path? As a nation of civilized people, this behavior is not civil at all. This desire to erase the work of inclusion programs when we still have not eradicated racial, gender, or orientation-based discrimination is disturbing on all levels.

So, what can you do? Be the voice that amplifies those who should be included. Be part of policymaking initiatives. Be the voice for your child and/or children like them. Be the voice for a coworker and stand up for someone at a company luncheon who has food allergies. Stand your ground in helping others understand that disability and chronic health conditions can also be in the diversity pie we all so richly eat regularly. If we don’t take a stand for both those we know and love as well as those who don’t, imagine how the nation will be divided in the very near future. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” We cannot allow this to happen.

Being included should be a natural right. Unfortunately, there are many working to take that away, and this will impact those with disabilities as well. It is up to us to make the difference.