Inclusion as a Value and an Organizing Principle

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute. From our beginning, The Arcadia Institute has held inclusion as a key value. We have expressed it in our mission statement as a commitment to full community participation for people with disabilities. We have defined ‘participation’ as an active concept in which there is both equality and mutuality. That is, people with disabilities come to relationships fully valued for what they bring to the interaction.

This blog is the third in a three part series that represents our thinking to align our work with the work of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation’s basic values of inclusion, equity and diversity. The different ways in which people with disabilities have historically, and in important ways currently, been excluded from community life, the ways in which their uniqueness has been devalued instead of respected, and the ways in which their separation has increased their subordinate status is similar to ways that other people served by the Foundation have been marginalized in our community.

The commitment of the Foundation to equity for all and insuring access to all that the community has to offer are highly consistent with our efforts, and we applaud the work they have recently begun to carry out those goals. We embrace their efforts as support and encouragement for our own work.

In the area of inclusion we differ to the extent that we advocate a universal affirmation of inclusion, without the qualification, ‘when practical’, that is in the Foundation’s statement on inclusion. Our experience has been that it is only through an unqualified commitment to full participation that a community will make the necessary accommodations and support available to make inclusion a reality. It is only when we hold up the ideal that we have a standard to even reach the ‘practical.’

It is in the inter-play of these three values of diversity, inclusion and equity that we begin to create the future we desire. A true respect for differences is a prerequisite for inclusion, and only through the push for equity can the barriers to access and participation be broken down.

Let us take advantage of the occasion that this season provides to reflect on the standards we have articulated and think ahead to the further work that we need to do.