Improving your inclusion practice
Inclusion is about our services, activities or venues being truly ‘open to everyone’. It means extending our usual good practice at being welcoming to ensure we meet the needs of disabled people who wish to attend our groups or venues. There are lots of ways you can make the services, activities and venues that your organisation provides more inclusive. There is a legal requirement that services to the public make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure disabled people can take part in the same way their non-disabled peers can. You can read more about the Equality Act 2010 at the end of this article.
Having the right attitude to inclusion is the most important step your organisation can take. Essentially, an inclusive organisation is one which welcomes participants or visitors. They are clear that everyone can take part and are committed to ensuring that this happens. A ‘can do’ attitude to ensuring people feel welcome and offering reasonable adjustments where needed is the most important element of being inclusive.
Barriers to participation for disabled people occur because the environment (built or natural) is generally set up with non-disabled people in mind; the way things are done (procedures) are not adaptable or responsive; or organisations have discriminatory or dismissive attitudes to disabled people and do not respond in an inclusive way to requests to make reasonable adjustments.
Understanding the barriers that might stop some people taking part is also important. The best way to learn more about this is to ask for and act on feedback from disabled visitors or get in touch with disabled people who offer Accessibility and Inclusion Consultancy. Once you understand some of the main barriers that occur because of how your service, activity or venue is currently set up you can work towards removing them as far as is possible.
You do not need to gain a lot of new specialist knowledge about the impairments or conditions your disabled visitors or participants may have in order to be inclusive. But you can gain valuable new skills and awareness by taking part in training around inclusion. Find out more about Inclusion Training.
TOP TEN TIPS TO BECOMING MORE INCLUSIVE
Inclusion means feeling safe, welcome and able to take part. Making your setting or provision inclusive and accessible is a learning process involving discussion, ideas, actions, feedback and reflection.
1. Be welcoming – first impressions count. Be welcoming in person, ensuring disabled people feel you are pleased they are there rather than that they are an issue or a burden. Use positive words and images that include disabled people in your publicity/social media/website. And ensure your website or other marketing materials are clear and accessible to disabled people.
2. Your attitude is the most important thing. Be a ‘can do’ person: how can we make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that this will work for you? Focus on what they want to do (not their impairment) and work together to make it happen. Communication is key – ask questions, listen and discuss together. You are not expected to be an expert. Beware of making assumptions!
3. Make sure people know your setting or provision is inclusive. Sharing your event, activity or venue on You’re Welcome is a great way to do this! You can also talk to organisations/people that disabled people already know and trust – Disabled People Led Organisations, Inclusion Gloucestershire being a local example. Also, Social Care Providers, Parent Carer groups, SENCOs, Special Schools, Charities, Advisory Teachers. Get the message out where disabled people may see it. Consider sharing information in accessible formats like British Sign Language, Braille, large print, easy read, video.
4. Give and receive information in advance. Provide clear, accessible information about what to expect at your sessions or venue and how people can contact you to find out more. If possible, arrange a meeting or encourage people to make contact and discuss their interests and requirements by phone/email/text before they come to you for the first time.
5. Review your venue’s accessibility; make access information easy to find. When you are answering the question ‘Is your space accessible?’ describe the access and facilities available, rather than assuming anyone can/cannot take part. Steps, slopes, toilets, exits and lighting may all be adaptable. Use the Accessibility Icons in our listings to show what you can offer. Ask for suggestions and work toward solutions to make things accessible.
6. Consider resources that will make activities more inclusive. Lots of simple adaptations can make your usual content, displays, games, resources and tools more accessible and inclusive. For example, you can provide written material in Large Print, Easy Read or Braille or offer audio tours or British Sign Language interpreted events.
7. Think about adding extra staff or volunteers to help everyone. If you run activities then adjusting staff ratios for the whole group can be more inclusive than assigning a 1:1 support person. Make use of ‘buddies’ and young leaders. Discuss all support options with the disabled person or their family. Read more about Support and Assistance.
8. Involve disabled and non-disabled people together. Can you be inclusive in your general sessions? If not, is a dedicated session possible? Could this benefit non-disabled people too? Are there other ways of being involved in your organisation? (including people socially and also through volunteer, employee, focus groups or trustee opportunities).
9. Write and publicise an Inclusion Statement. Try out some of these Top Ten Tips and use them to write your statement. Reflect what you say in your Inclusion Statement in any policies and procedures; share with staff, volunteers and members.
10. Ask disabled people and their families how it’s going. By responding to feedback you can keep getting better at being inclusive; it is an ongoing process for everyone.
THE LEGAL REQUIREMENT – EQUALITY ACT 2010
The legal framework for Inclusion is part of the Equality Act (2010) and has been summarised here by the Equality Advisory and Support Service:
Thealaw recognises that bringing about equality for disabled people may mean changing the way in which services are delivered, providing extra equipment and/or the removal of physical barriers. This is the ‘duty to make reasonable adjustments’.
A duty is something someone must do, in this case because the law says they must. The duty to make reasonable adjustments aims to make sure that if you are a disabled person, you can use an organisation’s services as close as it is reasonably possible to get to the standard usually offered to non-disabled people.
If an organisation providing goods, facilities or services to the public or a section of the public, or carrying out public functions, or running an association finds there are barriers to disabled people in the way it does things, then it must consider making adjustments (in other words, changes). If those adjustments are reasonable for that organisation to make, then it must make them.
The duty is ‘anticipatory’. This means an organisation cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use its services, but must think in advance (and on an ongoing basis) about what disabled people with a range of impairments might reasonably need, such as people who have a visual impairment, a hearing impairment, a mobility impairment or a learning disability.
An organisation is not required to do more than it is reasonable for it to do. What is reasonable for an organisation to do depends, among other factors, on its size and nature, and the type of goods, facilities or services it provides, or the public functions it carries out, or the association it runs.