What Exactly Is Inclusion?
Merriam-Webster defines inclusion as "a relation between two classes that exists when all members of the first are also members of the second". It really means that all people should "freely and openly be accommodated without restrictions or limitations of any kind" (Wikipedia). While the concept of inclusion is applicable to any minority group, the focus here is on people with disabilities as it relates to the game of golf.
Inclusion goes much further than the often used term "mainstreaming". Mainstreaming is limited to putting a person with a disability next to a person without a disability, in hopes that each will adapt to and learn about the other. Inclusion is when the whole of society, its physical accessibility and its social attitudes should exist with universal design in mind, thus ending marginalization towards people with different abilities (Wikipedia).
Inclusion is not a simple concept since it requires systemic change in attitudes and perceptions about who people with disabilities are. Inclusion means change! Changes needed might include:
- A more positive attitude toward certain mental traits or behaviors, or not underestimating the potential quality of life of those with impairments
- Social supports
- Help dealing with attitudinal barriers, resources, aids or positive discrimination to overcome them.
- Using suitable formats (e.g. Braille), levels (e.g. simplicity of language), or coverage (e.g. explaining issues others may take for granted)
- Physical structures
- Buildings with sloped access and elevators
The social model of disability implies that attempts to change, 'fix', or 'cure' individuals, especially when against the wishes of the person, can be discriminatory and prejudiced. It is often contended that this attitude, often seen as stemming from a medical model and a subjective value system, can harm the self-esteem and social inclusion of those constantly subjected to it (e.g. being told they are not as good or valuable as others in some overall and core sense (Wikipedia)).
Jack Pearpoint and Marsha Forest state that the real issue about inclusion for many people (although they often will not admit it) is Fear of Change! Many people in services are afraid they will lose their jobs; afraid of new responsibilities; afraid of what they don't understand; afraid of being accountable. The words that come out are:
- "But, we don't have enough money!"
- "But, we haven't been trained to take care of that!"
- "But, I didn't choose special ed!"
- "But, I don't have special curriculum guidelines, and I don't have time to create a special program for them".
- "But the other children will suffer!"
Most of the "buts" are about me, me, me. The buts that are couched in deprivation to the other children reflect both ignorance of virtually everything we've known for centuries about cooperative learning and peer tutoring, and too often are a guise to cover the truth, that "I am afraid!" This is the key phrase underneath most of the kvetching and whining. People are afraid 'they might catch IT'. These deep seated fears are a product of our culture. It is not the fault of individuals (teachers and human service workers) that they are afraid.
The answer is that we must face the fear, and do it anyway - include everyone. This may be uncomfortable - even terrifying for a few moments, but fears pass. When we face our fears, and proceed regardless, they immediately diminish and come into perspective (Pearpoint, J., & Forest, M. Inclusion: It's About Change! Inclusion Press International.)
Erik Olesen in his book 12 Steps to Mastering the Winds of Change says, "the mediocre resist change, the successful embrace it." We must invite success for inclusion and thus embrace change with all our hearts and souls.