Inclusion and Accessibility
Disability inclusion means that individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in every aspect of life to the fullest extent possible. These opportunities include participation in education, employment, public health programming, community living, and service learning.1 Including people with disabilities in everyday activities and encouraging them to have roles similar to their peers who do not have a disability is important for building the capacity of youth, especially youth with disabilities, and making society more inclusive for all individuals.
It is important to note that one part of inclusion involves creating true accessibility, rather than simply providing accommodations. A way to accomplish this is through universal design, which includes designing products and environments to be useable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or status in life.
While accommodations will always be necessary in some capacity, universal designs and true accessibility lessen the burden of constantly needing to request and push for having access needs met.
- An accommodation is a change that is made so that a person with a disability is able to fully participate.
- Accessibility means having a place, environment, or event that is set up from the start to be accessible to all individuals.2
When creating true accessibility, there are a variety of factors to consider. These include, but are not limited to, the following definitions: 3
- Accessible Spaces: Ensuring that each room that may be needed (including restrooms) is accessible by wheelchair and mobility aid users. Consider other mobility issues as well (e.g., steepness of slopes, height of buzzers, access to seating, distance of parking from destination, heavy doors).
- Format: There should be both visual and non-visual items available for use.
- Interpretation: Especially for events, there should be American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and CART4 captioning available, which often involves booking these services significantly in advance.
- Language: Avoid language that operates on ability assumptions, such as “I need everyone to stand now.” Instead, try “If you are able, please stand with me.”
- Lighting: Certain types of light can trigger some disabilities (such as seizure disorders), so it is important to either avoid fluorescent lighting, strobe lights, and flash photos, or warn people significantly ahead of time.
- Restrooms: There should be restrooms that are both physically accessible and designated as gender neutral, which is both inclusive for members of the LGBTQ community and for people who may have caregivers accompany them.
- Separate Spaces: Access to quiet space for those with sensory needs is an important form of inclusion.
- Transportation: Paratransit or other services may need to be arranged/offered. If transportation cannot be provided then it is even more important to offer video options.
- Video Options: Live streaming or video conferencing availability can help include those that may not be able to make the event for reasons related to disability, or for any other potential reason.
- Written Materials: It is important that all written materials are provided in an accessible format.
Although this list is extensive, it does not cover every strategy for ensuring accessibility. There will be few times when accessibility is absolutely perfect, so it is important to be transparent about all potential barriers and to be flexible when new access needs are brought to attention.
Respecting the inherent worth, dignity, and multiple talents of all people includes speaking and writing respectfully and appropriately about an individual with a disability. Person- or people-first language emphasizes the person first not the disability.
For example, when referring to a person with a disability, refer to the person first to acknowledge that the person is defined by more than their disability alone. You can use phrases such as:
- “a person who …,”
- “a person with …”, or
- “person who has …”
Federal Agency Employment Strategies: A Framework for Disability Inclusion (PDF, 34 pages)
This framework developed by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor lays out strategies and practices to promote the hiring and inclusion of people with disabilities. The section titled, “Special Initiatives for Youth with Disabilities,” provides examples of current, up-and-coming, and emerging personnel strategies and practices in relation to initiatives for youth with disabilities.
Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR)
SOAR is a searchable online database provided by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and is designed to let users explore various accommodation options for people with disabilities in work and educational settings. It is a service provided by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.
United States Access Board
The U.S. Access Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015
2 National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability, n.d.-a
3 Job Accommodation Network, n.d.; National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability, n.d.-b; Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion, 2017
4 CART captioning stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation, which means that a certified CART provider simultaneously translates a speech to text as the speech is being delivered.