Most of our social infrastructure was built incorrectly. It was built on the assumption that everyone is basically physically and cognitively similar, and that people who aren’t need to go away and be someone else’s problem.
People with disabilities have been treated as disposable. Children have been kept out of school; adults have been excluded from higher education. People have been institutionalized, and many are still stuck in institutions.
People live without freedom, and are kept from their communities. People are forced to stay unemployed rather than supported in finding work that they can do. Disabled people have been harmed in any number of ways.
It has always been wrong to exclude people with disabilities like this, and in recent years, more people have come to understand that it is wrong. Accessibility and inclusion are on the table much more often than they used to be (in significant part, because the disability rights community has insisted that they be there.)
Part of what we have to do is be willing to be inclusive, and be willing to change things for the sake of access. That’s necessary — and it’s also not enough. There are a lot of access needs that we flat-out don’t know how to meet right now. For some people, nothing we currently know how to do is good enough.
In order to build a more accessible and inclusive culture, we’re going to have to create things that don’t currently exist. We need better infrastructure and support. We need better technology. We need more resources, and more understanding that funding disability needs to be a priority. We need research and development, we need to learn a lot of things that we don’t currently know.
The only way to get better at accessibility and inclusion is to start from where we are, and to commit to getting better at it. We can’t wait to be ready; we will never be ready. What we can do is understand that the people who are still being excluded matter, and keep building the things that need to exist.