There Was Nothing to See — What Inclusion Looks Like
Dr. Miriam Heyman, a Program Officer at the Ruderman Family Foundation, recently wrote a lovely article reflecting on the incredible inclusive communities she found at her visit this past summer to Camp Ramah in New England and other local Jewish summer camps.
Here is an excerpt:
After many of these visits, I came back to my office and told my colleagues, “There was really nothing to see.” I meant that as the biggest possible compliment.
Why was there nothing to see? Because these organizations seamlessly included people with and without disabilities in all aspects of their programming. Staff and participants with and without disabilities all participated in diverse activities, and it was impossible to identify who had a disability and who did not—there was no segregation. I visited swimming pools, lakes, cafeterias, cabins, a sports museum, a racing event, and more. My hosts at each location described the supports that staff and participants receive to help them address medical needs, challenging behaviors, and physical disabilities. It was very clear that expertise, creativity, dedication, and professionalism were key factors in the success of these supports. And of course, if I looked closely, there were things to see – behavior plans, epi pens, and camp cabins with accessible showers. There were also support staff, but these talented individuals did not work exclusively with the children with disabilities. Rather, they helped out wherever it was needed, with children with disabilities, and with children without identified disabilities who clearly needed extra support. Most importantly, it did not feel like I was visiting “inclusion programs”. Rather, it felt like visiting camps and schools where kids and adults with and without disabilities learned and played together.