Hireup Session 5: The power of inclusive communities

Picture of the panel. Jo, Dan, Tracey and Murray.

In our community, accessibility and inclusion are two words that come up time and time again. Often they’re used together, sometimes interchangeably.

But while accessibility is a critical consideration for people with disability, it’s only one component of inclusion and just one aspect of an inclusive community.

For our fifth installment of Hireup Sessions, we brought four panellists together to chat about the power of inclusive communities – what defines an inclusive community, why they matter, who benefits from them (hint: everyone!) and, based on our panellists’ experiences, their top tips for making communities more inclusive.

Hireup Sessions 5 Panellists:

As our host, Hireup’s Learning & Development Lead Ash Ball, notes early in the session, this is a broad topic that affects everyone and can be approached in many different ways. But our focus was on disability and inclusion, in the online world and offline world – with that caveat out of the way, let’s start with the basics: our panellists’ take on…

 

What defines an inclusive community?

Our panellists all come from different sectors, but one thing that binds them is the work they do day-in day-out to foster inclusivity – in tech, in sport, in film and in recreation and life skill development.

For Tracey Corbin-Matchett, an inclusive community is one “where access is paramount but also, an inclusive community recognises diversity and uniqueness of individuals, as well as encouraging participation and a level playing field for everyone in that community.”

To Murray Elbourn, it’s “a community where everybody’s an individual and equal. And the same rights are given in the same capacity, to be able to deliver services to people with disabilities.

Code Camp Founder, Dan Zwolenski, took a slightly different tack. “A community is something that’s kind of bonding over something. Some common interest or some common activity. So that’s the community aspect. The inclusive bit is just anyone who’s interested in that should be welcome, should be able to do it and it should have an attitude of letting those people [who are interested] in and bringing them into the community. Make them part of it.”

 

Why do inclusive communities matter?

One of the recurring themes in this session was that inclusive communities recognise that everyone is an individual with different perspectives, needs, aspirations and skill sets – so why something matters will always differ from person to person. These were our takeaways on why inclusive communities matter from our Sessions 5 panellists:

  • They encourage a sense of shared understanding, break down stereotypes and foster belonging. Tracey shares her experiences on how this applies through film “With film or with anything you see on screen, it gives you an opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, so if we don’t represent [everyone], or we don’t represent [everyone] authentically, then we perpetuate stereotypes or leave people out of the community. We often say I cannot be what I cannot see. If people with disability don’t see themselves on screen then they don’t see themselves as part of the community.”
  • When a community is inclusive it empowers people (of any age) to overcome their fears, try new things and discover what they’re capable of. Murray has seen this time and time again with Sport NSW’s Activate Inclusion Sports Days. “Kids come in and they’re not quite sure if they can do sport or not. Maybe they’ve had a really bad experience and there’s been bullying or teasing, you know, all the horrible things that go along with a bad experience in a school or in a peer group. And they come to our day and it’s so inviting and adaptive, both with rules and equipment, and they walk away with just a super smile on their face, and so encouraged that they actually can achieve things that they previously thought that they couldn’t.”
  • Inclusivity is about diversity, and there’s strength in diversity. Dan continuesThe more people we have with different points of views and different backgrounds, the more ideas we have and the more we can grow as a global community, and build amazing worlds together. So I think it’s really important. Without diversity we don’t have that kind of strength.”

As Jo Berry sums up:

“I think that it’s just really important that we have a community that everyone feels welcome in, and everyone feels like they can participate in.”

And really, who can argue with that? “If you’re included, you’re happy. And if everyone’s included, and everyone’s happy, then surely that makes for a better society…and also a richer one, because how much richer is everyone when you’ve got a room full of completely different people with completely different experiences, and you find ways to connect?” – Jo Berry, Fighting Chance

For people who may not know where to start in terms of making their own world more inclusive, we’ve compiled our favourite takeaways from our panellists on:

 

Practical tips for making communities more inclusive

  • Think about people. As Jo explains: I often think about my friend’s birthday parties. And a lot of my really close friends, if they’re having a party at a restaurant often they’ll ring and check, you know, is it accessible? And that makes me feel loved and a part of the group.
  • Focus on making it not exclusiveDan tells us: “creating a culture really is what we do around welcoming people as they come in and get involved. It really isn’t that hard, to be honest, it’s just a case of working with our teachers and making sure they have that attitude of ‘every kid that comes into that class should have an amazing experience’. Whatever their background, wherever they’re from, doesn’t really matter.”
  • Hire people with disability. As Tracey shares: “My advice would be if you’re in a workplace and you’re hiring, to look at the role and see if that is a role that someone with a disability can do. Because when you hire someone with a disability it’s advancing their opportunities, but it changes the culture within your workplace, and it’s always for the positive.”
  • It’s often only minor tweaks that make something inclusive. Murray gives us a recent example from a school sports day in Wagga for 150 kids: I walked up to the AFL development officer and said okay, here’s two techniques that you can use for hand passing and kicking with the AFL ball that will suit you well today, and really assist the group. And he said ‘thank you so much…I thought it was so hard to adapt something’. And just two things, that are so minutely different, that he was able to adapt in his lessons to be able to have a really good experience for those kids.”

“I think that’s the message that we need to send: it’s not rocket science to change something to make it inclusive”. – Murray Elbourn, Sport NSW

 

To recap a huge conversation, perhaps one way to look at the overall inclusive community puzzle is: access is being able to get to and through the door; inclusion is everyone knowing once they’re through the door that they’ll be able to participate, they’ll feel like an equal and be a valued member of the group.

And an inclusive community is one where these things are considered not an effort or an afterthought, but a necessity – by everyone and for the benefit of everyone.

This was our last Hireup Session for 2018. We’ll be back early in 2019, but before then please get in touch at hello@hireup.com.au if you have any questions, opinions or topic suggestions — enjoy your break, take care and we’ll look forward to bringing you more big conversations in the new year!

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