Inclusion is child’s play!
June 7 2020
Emma Bara discusses how to make inclusive thinking and planning second nature. She talk about how inclusion and adaptation is natural for children and how much we can learn from them.
Starting with a game!
Since the Covid-19 lockdown, my 12 year old son, Asher, has been spending far too much time on the computer. On the plus side, he is interacting with his friends, and his games involve a lot of trading (Maths), designing things (Tech) and typing (English…well sort of). Then today, he wanted to show me a bus that he had designed in the game Roblox.
It is a Superbus that has boosters and rocket thrusters and stilts. The bus is straight out of the mind of a 12 year old boy. But the thing that struck me most is that it is also wheelchair accessible. Of course it didn’t JUST have a ramp, but a ramp that also doubles as a lift when the bus is on stilts. I was very impressed, despite the terrifying height of the stilts and the lift.
My son is not a wheelchair user, nor is my daughter but they both have friends who are. He doesn’t need to think about it, if he wants his friend to be included, that’s just what is needed. It is natural for him to include wheelchair ramp and space on a virtual bus.
The Hidden Curriculum.
I remembered that a few months ago we asked Asher for ideas on how to make school activities more inclusive. He suggested a Design & Technology (DT) project where the students would design a ramp for a wheelchair user to enter a building. They would have to investigate the size of a ramp and gradient needed. The school might be even be able to borrow a wheelchair, so students could experience what it is like when a ramp is too steep or too narrow.
We recently posted an excellent blog from Barry Whelan about the Hidden Curriculum. In it Barry talks about the importance of the Hidden Curriculum, the messages that you send to pupils through the materials you use and the images you have on the walls. Asher’s DT project is a perfect example of how to incorporate an inclusive theme into the classroom.
Our world has not been designed to be inclusive. Even now, new houses are not automatically wheelchair friendly, children’s hospitals do not automatically have quiet spaces, schools feel pressured into having 100% attendance awards that immediately exclude children with medical conditions. However, if we start setting school projects such as designing a wheelchair ramp or researching role models with Asperger’s or looking at the tech behind the hearing aid, then we will start normalising inclusion. Our children, our future planners, designers and policy makers, will automatically accept inclusion as a natural part of planning.
A character like me!
Elsewhere our 10 year old daughter, Adi, who has multiple disabilities, noticed that there were very few TV programmes featuring disabled characters. She recently discovered Audrey Antelope on Netflix and shared that with our friend and colleague, former paralympian, Elizabeth Wright. Elizabeth loved the character and promptly got in touch with the producers to get an interview with them about it! She wrote it up for us and you can read it here.
However, one or two programmes with disabled characters wasn’t enough for our girl and she has started to make her own videos. You can watch them on her Youtube channel, Adi’s Smile. A couple of the videos are from her own experience. Others are just from her own understanding of disability and desire to see disabled kids more included. It’s her own experience of trying to fit in and not quite managing it that has fuelled her interest in inclusion.
Inclusion is child play!
Adi was thrilled lately when a new doll we ordered turned out to have two right feet. Timmy came to the right house. Instead of sending him back, Adi immediately asked me to make a splint for him. She has had hours of fun taking him to the physiotherapist, getting him fitted for orthotics. These are things that she knows about. Things that most dolls don’t reflect.
Timmy got his own splint, made from a piece of plastic milk carton, some velcro and orange felt. I don’t think I will be getting any calls from orthotics labs any time soon though!
We can learn so much from our kids
We can learn so much from our kids. Make inclusion a natural part of life and it becomes a natural part of life. For Asher and Adi, inclusion is straightforward. There is nothing complicated. Adi wants to see more disability represented. So she makes her own programmes with disabled characters and welcomes a disabled doll into her toy box. Asher creates an virtual bus with his wheelchair user friend in mind and comes up with a design problem to solve within minutes.
By normalising inclusion, by simply incorporating it into our games, tv programmes and school activities, inclusion becomes easy. When we open our eyes and watch our children solve problems and interact with the world, we can see how it’s done. We shouldn’t wait for our kids to come up with the solutions, we can learn from them and start now!
Emma Bara is proud parent of two. She and husband, David, set up wecanaccess.com. Their aim is to ensure the world is a more inclusive place for their kids growing up.
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