When Declaring a Business or Event is Inclusive, Ensure it truly Means Everyone

The terms inclusivity, inclusion, and inclusive are widely recognized.

Often, when I see an organization or event use these words, the focus is on welcoming LGTBQ+ friendly, all genders and identities, and so on. Something is missing, though.

A large group of people are regularly left out, the same large group of people in our city who are routinely ignored and excluded.

Of course, I’m talking about people with disabilities.

I can’t tell you how often I come across events, organizations, and small businesses that use the word inclusivity or all are welcome.

The first time I saw these words, my first reaction was excitement—finally, people like me would be included!

However, my heart sank upon realizing that it had nothing to do with wheelchair accessibility. This disappointment is a common experience for many people with disabilities, who often find themselves excluded despite the promise of inclusivity.

They weren’t referring to people with disabilities. They were referring to anyone who ISN’T a person with a disability.

– How do you think people with disabilities feel when they see that, then find out it’s not accessible, and therefore we’re not welcomed or being included?

– How would you feel if a small business didn’t make you feel welcomed because you’re “different”?

– How would you feel if you constantly receive invites on social media to events that are not accessible?

– Would you feel like you were being included or you belonged?

– How would it affect your mental health?

I constantly get invited to events that I’d love to attend but can’t because the venue is not wheelchair accessible. It makes me feel like I don’t belong.

To make matters worse, the invitations are often sent by long-time friends, very aware that I have a disability, a big powered wheelchair, and that I’m a long-time advocate for wheelchair accessibility.

I also feel rejected when I receive invitations to events when the venue is clearly not accessible. A part of me feels rejected because that person isn’t accepting me into their circle of friends or sharing another interest or a special occasion with them, such as a birthday party.

There needs to be more transparency and accountability regarding accessibility in venues. When an event is held at a venue that isn’t accessible, it needs to be mentioned in any Facebook ads and media that the venue is not wheelchair accessible.

Unless the organizers are too embarrassed to admit that they either forgot or refused to acknowledge people with disabilities.

We can’t have that now, can we?

The local media should also be doing their part to mention whether or not the event venue is wheelchair accessible. Don’t leave it up to us to contact the organizers and ask them about the accessibility of the venues, because most of the time, they don’t answer.

Despite small businesses and event organizers struggling, it makes people with disabilities feel like our money isn’t good enough for them.

Now, I don’t want people to think that I expect everyone to cater to me; I’m just one person. However, in the capital of Canada, a city filled with small businesses and event organizers claiming to be diverse and inclusive, I do expect you not to exclude people with disabilities from your events or business.

People with disabilities are being left out way too often, and it profoundly affects our mental health and our ability to socialize and do things in our city.

The next time I see an ad, a post, or get an invite to an event that claims to be inclusive, I sincerely hope the organizers have taken the time to educate themselves on what it truly means to be inclusive and the impact it has on those who are excluded.

Photo: iStock