Picture Above: Graphic provides a visual representation of the differences between inclusion, exclusion, segregation, and integration. Inclusion and integration are often confused but mean very different things for how people with disabilities interact with community. Source: thinkinclusive.us

Being in the IL LEND program has opened me up to new ideas and various perspectives about disability and disability culture. We talk a lot about disparities in IL LEND, mostly as they relate to health and health care access. As we know, people with developmental disabilities incur additional challenges to receiving diagnoses, appropriate follow-up care, sensitivity, services in education, physical access, etc. The individual and their family end up taking on a “fighter” role to defend their right to the most basic services and to give them the best outcome.

One topic that is not often discussed when we talk about families with children or people with disabilities is how they experience leisure activities. In Occupational Therapy, my own discipline, health and well-being depends on full participation in all areas of their life.

This past month, I attended a community discussion held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago on the topic of art and access. It was very thought provoking about how community spaces are often inaccessible to many people and how hard the museum is trying to create programs that include everyone. The museum has not only started offering touch tours which offer a multisensory experience for those with low vision or blindness, but also visual descriptions, sign language tours of the museum, interpreters for theater performances, offer color blindness correcting glasses for rent, and have a group that works with participating artists in creating sensory friendly theater performances that include artists with disabilities and are accessible and inclusive to a wide range of audiences. The theme of the discussion was: how do we move beyond making spaces physically accessible to making sure that people can actually attend, engage with, and participate in art.

I really enjoyed going to this talk, and it was a really good fit with the things that we have been learning in IL LEND and in my own discipline. I hope that we continue the conversations in our community moving on to real inclusion in community spaces and experiences rather than just integration, and how cultural and community engagement for people with and without disabilities supports health and well-being.