Some inclusion requires ongoing effort

Inclusion means a lot of different things. Sometimes inclusion can be passive, sometimes it needs setup, and sometimes it needs ongoing effort and/or expense.

Sometimes inclusion is passive. In that sense, it’s the opposite of active exclusion.

Some examples of passive inclusion:

  • Meeting in a building that happens to be accessible.
  • Not harassing disabled people with intrusive unwanted “help”
  • Seeing a conspicuously disabled adult alone in a public space without assuming it’s somehow an emergency or that they’ve escaped from needed supervision. (And therefore not bothering them.)
  • Raising no objection when people bring service dogs into a store or some other place
  • Not having an admissions policy that prohibits people with certain disabilities from enrolling in a school

Sometimes to get to passive inclusion, you have to spend some time changing one thing or setting it up. After the temporary period of active change, the inclusion becomes passive.

Some examples of inclusion that requires setup, but may not require ongoing active effort:

  • Building a wheelchair ramp
  • (Or renovating an unsafe ramp and bringing it up to code)
  • Hiring an architect knowledgable about accessibility when you’re building a new building
  • Making your book available on Bookshare 
  • Changing a restrictive admissions policy

Sometimes there is no passive way to include people. Sometimes inclusion means active ongoing effort or expense

A couple examples of active inclusion:


  • Some people need captioning to understand speech reliably. (Including many people who can hear).
  • Captioning takes time and human effort. Computers can’t do it; it has to be done by people.
  • Live captioning has to be done by experts (in CART or TypeWell), and it’s inherently expensive.
  • CART or TypeWell captioning events/classes in real time takes time, effort and expertise. It is inherently expensive.
  • High quality captioning also requires ongoing collaborative effort with the providers – people doing the captioning need to understand the words you’re saying in order to transcribe them accurately. So they need  to be provided with any acronyms, technical vocabulary, or culturally specific words you will be using.
  • If videos and events/classes aren’t captioned, a lot of people are passively excluded.
  • There’s no cheap or passive way to include them. Inclusion requires effort and resources.

Alternative format materials:

  • Some people can’t read standard print.
  • In order to access education or events involving print, they need materials in an accessible format
  • (Eg: electronic copies, braille, scans, large print, audio recordings, or something else, depending on the person)
  • Someone has to convert materials to an accessible format, every single time. This is inherently time consuming, and may in some cases require expertise or expensive equipment.
  • Every time materials aren’t converted, print disabled people are excluded.
  • There is no passive way to include print disabled people.
  • Inclusion of print disabled people is only possible when communities and schools and teachers are willing to put effort, time, and resources into inclusion.

There are many, many more examples of all three types of inclusion. When we talk about inclusion, the conversation needs to be about all three. Passive inclusion, setup inclusion, and active inclusion are all vitally important. People with disabilities are worthy of time and money.

Short version: Sometimes inclusion is easy and sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes inclusion means that you stop actively excluding people, and include them by letting them be. Sometimes inclusion means setting something an access feature initially, then including people by letting them be. Sometimes inclusion takes ongoing effort and expense. Sometimes inclusion means you stop passively excluding people, and start actively including them. All of these forms of inclusion are vitally important.

Dwarfism awareness – thoughts on doing right by adult little people

I wrote this post for Dwarfism Awareness Month (which was in October) in collaboration with a friend who is a little person. It wasn’t ready until now, so I am posting it now.

Here are some things worth knowing:

Adult little people are adults, but people often treat them like children. You might be doing this too, and it’s important to get over that. Many people strongly associate being a certain size with being a young child. It’s important to be aware that not everyone that size is actually a child, and to act to mitigate any reactions you might be having that lead you to see an adult little person as a young child.

For instance, at work:

  • If you’re in a professional setting and someone is wearing professional clothing and acting like a professional adult, they’re not ten years old.
  • If you keep viscerally responding as though they are a child, it’s important to realize that it’s not ok and get over it. Don’t express that reaction, and don’t try to justify it.
  • Treat them as an adult
  • Respect their professional competence
  • If they are above you in the hierarchy, do not treat them as junior
  • If they are at your level in the hierarchy, do not treat them as junior
  • If they are actually junior, do not treat them like a visiting child or a teenager getting work experience. Respect them as an adult professional.

Another example: bars:

  • If you are in a bar, and someone is wearing adult clothing, acting like an adult, and drinking beer, they are not ten years old
  • They are an adult drinking beer in a bar
  • This is not a problem. This is something that many adults choose to do.
  • Do not look around for a caregiver. Adults do not have to bring minders to bars.
  • Do not ask them if they are ok unless you have an actual reason to think they might not be. Being a little person in a bar is not cause for concern in itself
  • If they are flirting with someone, this is not cause for concern either
  • Many adults flirt with people in bars. This is a thing that people do.
  • (Also, do not make jokes about tossing them, ask to toss them, or in any other way treat them as a toy. Adults have the right to drink beer in bars without being treated as a novelty attraction.)

And when you’re setting up an environment, remember that some adults are less than 4’10” and some are much shorter than that. Adult little people need access to anything that other adults need access to.

More specifically:

Adult little people need to be able to get through doors:

  • If you use a latch high on the door to prevent children from entering or exiting, you’re also making it impossible for adults of the same height to enter or exist
  • Latches need to be in places that adult little people can reach
  • Adults with disabilities should not be locked in like little children
  • If for some reason this kind of safety system is unavoidable, there needs to be an alternative way in and out that is reliably available
  • And you need to make it clear what that is

Keep this in mind when you put things on shelves:

  • If you’re putting things on shelves that a four foot tall person could not reach, you need an alternative way of reaching the thing
  • Or to put the thing in a lower place.
  • Keep in mind that if you put something on a high shelf in order to prevent children from reaching it, you’re also preventing adult little people from reaching it
  • Consider alternatives such as using child locks or supervising children more closely
  • (Or reconsidering whether the thing actually needs to be restricted. Eg: It might not actually be so terrible if your 7 year old students can reach the copier paper. You might not actually need an adults-only candy jar (and if you do, it’s not so nice to keep it where kids can see it anyway.))
  • If putting things on high shelves for safety reasons is truly unavoidable, make sure that there is an alternative way for adult little people to access them *and that you make it known what that way is*.

More generally:

  • Do not simplify your language the way you might when talking to a young child.
  • Do not assume that an adult little person is unemployed or only employed in a sheltered workshop or in jobs that can be done by children and teenagers.
  • Do treat adult little people as the age they actually are. (Eg: if they are elderly, don’t treat them as though they’re 20).
  • Do not ask invasive medical questions.

Short version: Adult little people are adults. Since many of them are the same height as young children, a lot of people treat them like children. Don’t do that. Also, make sure that you’re configuring things so that short adults can do the things that adults need to do.