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February 20, 2019

Exclusively Inclusive

No word illustrates the general confusion towards people with disabilities better than 'inclusive'.  It's often used to describe its exact opposite.  It isn't always what it seems, and it's worth taking a second look.
"Camp Tidnish is the only barrier-free and fully accessible summer camp for Nova Scotian children, youth, and adults with physical and/or intellectual disabilities.

Camp Tidnish has provided top-quality programs for over 80 years. Each year, we host hundreds of campers from across Nova Scotia. Our programs are designed with inclusion, independence, and the personal development of our campers in mind."
So this camp, which is a segregated establishment, values 'inclusion'.  I think I know what they mean; that they provide a suitable place for those who might not otherwise have the summer camp experience.  A chance to excel and succeed on one's own terms is a good idea, but inclusive it ain't.

Unfortunately this kind of mischaracterization lets the vast majority of similar places off the hook for providing a humane, constructive environment for all of their campers, including those with disabilities – and for seeking to be responsive to their campers’ feelings while working to expand their minds.

That's the downside.  Kids at other camps never meet their peers with disabilities.

The Club Inclusion in Halifax seems to be pretty much for people with disabilities.  A more accurate name might be "Club Success" or "The Friendship Club"

Is Access-a-Bus inclusive transportation?  They very carefully don't use the i-word.  It makes 'transportation' available to people who aren't served by conventional means, but as a service, it's segregated and inferior.

Are inclusive classrooms inclusive education?  Yes in having a wide diversity of students, but not always in optimizing education.  That requires ongoing advocacy, planning, support and commitment.  And really good teachers.  The March 2018 final report of Nova Scotia's Commission on Inclusive Education acknowledges that inclusion sometimes gives way in the pursuit of education.

Sheltered Workshops?  Again, segregated, but inclusive in the sense that participants are among the employed.  But the segregation makes it easy to allow separate rules, like ignoring minimum wage. 

  • The whole reason for an organization like Summer Street to exist is to facilitate community inclusion and involvement.  - 40th anniversary report 
Bathrooms.  Not usually inclusive, since there are men's and women's facilities.  Very occasionally there is a unisex bathroom with stalls with floor-to-ceiling doors and a common area for washing up.  More often, there is a family washroom which is inclusive in the sense that anyone can use it, but only one at a time.  The best accessible bathrooms for wheelchair users are big,  have a dressing table and are exclusively for one-at-a-time use. 

Sometimes inclusion is achieved by segregation.  Dalhousie Medical School, which in 150 years has never graduated an African Nova Scotian MD, seeks to correct this:

  • Admission prerequisites are required for all applicants. However, applicants who apply under the Affirmative Action Statement are considered on the basis of their qualifications for the study of medicine rather than in relation to other candidates.
This is permitted under the Charter, though it's hard to imagine a more condescending and awkward presentation.

A distinction without a difference you say.  Except when 'Inclusion' is used carelessly it gives the impression that people with disabilities are fully integrated in society.  More often the reverse is true - it's worth paying attention.

February 9, 2019


An excerpt from Alice, a fun book about an un-fun situation.  Cheap on Amazon:

Paul Vienneau and the Carpenter

‘The sun was shining on the decks,
Shining with all her might:
She did her very best to make
The patio level and bright
And this was odd, because it was
Behind a set of steps

Paul Vienneau and a Carpenter
Were wheeling ‘neath the lamps;
They wept like anything to see
Such paucity of ramps
“If this were only better planned,”
 They said, “we’d be access champs!”

“If seven men with seven drills
Worked for fifty nights,
Do you suppose,” Paul Vienneau said,
“That they could get it right?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
That’s certainly our plight.

 “O Council, come and wheel with us!”
 Paul Vienneau did beseech.
“A pleasant wheel, a pleasant talk,
A chance for us to teach
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The CAO looked at him.
But never a word he said:
The CAO winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head—
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave his comfy bed..

But four young councilors hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat—
And this was no surprise , because, you know,
They seldom left their seat.

Four other Councilors followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more—
All hopping through the dirty path,
And scrambling to the fore.

Paul Vienneau and the Carpenter
Wheeled on a mile or so,
And then they rested by a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Councilors stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” Paul Vienneau said,
“To talk of many things:
Of ramps—and doors—and steepest slopes—
Of washrooms and commodes—
And why the curb cuts are so bad—
And whither building codes.”

“Just wait a sec,” the Councilors cried,
“Before we have our chat;
Grandfather rules the access game
and with business we side!”
“We know it well!” said the Carpenter.
"There is no thanks for that."

“To wash my hands,” Paul Vienneau said,
“Is what I chiefly need:
Some privacy besides
Is very good indeed—
Now if you’re ready Councilors dear,
Our views begin to heed.”

“It’s not on us!” the Councilors cried,
Turning a little blue,
“After our hard work, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“I rest my case ,” Paul Vienneau said
“You haven’t got a clue!”

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The washroom’s full of mice:
I wish you were not so obtuse—
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” Paul Vienneau said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“These people are so thick!”

“I weep for you,” Paul Vienneau said.
“I deeply sympathize.”
But really now, we pay our tax
And it’s agreed we get little back
Few jobs, not much respect,
Lip service, we surmise.

“O Councilors,” said the Carpenter.
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?”
 But answer came there none—
And that was scarcely odd, because
They’d been outvoted, every one

January 22, 2019


For years I've complained about the lack of basic protections in the many sheltered workshops in Nova Scotia.  There is no uniform code of conduct for staff and no attempt to educate participants in protecting personal space, consent, relationships, and legal rights and responsibilities.

Serendipitously, I learned that the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living is offering a one day course

Spreading the Word About Healthy Sexuality and Consent for Residential Service Providers

Funded by the Department of Community Services, Innovation Grant, this FREE professional development session is based on the "Doing it Better" curriculum developed by Sexual Heath Nova Scotia and will focus on educating residential service providers across Nova Scotia on strategies that are culturally specific to the Intellectual Disability community.

This particular session (January 31 on Mumford Road) seems full, and it is evidently geared to residential service providers.  Other sessions seem to be planned province-wide

Of course it should be mandatory for any organization providing any services to those with intellectual disabilities, and some version should be offered to participants as well.   But it is a tiny step in the right direction.