Commentary: Simple Gestures of Inclusion

November 15, 2016

With all of the recent news about politics, violence and the numerous other things happening throughout the world, we often forget to acknowledge the good things that are going on in our communities. Last week, this news item about a Braille yearbook caught my attention because of the story behind it. A group of high school students in California decided to surprise Maycie Vorreiter, a fellow classmate who happens to be blind, by ordering a yearbook in Braille after the yearbook staff won a cash prize. This might very well be the first time ever such a yearbook is created.

As someone who is blind, I know this extremely unique and thoughtful gesture helped Maycie join in the excitement of reading the yearbook on her own. Most importantly, however, it made her feel welcome and included. As a society, we often forget that including others is not as complicated as it might seem. Not all accommodations are about special technology or special training. Simple things like offering to read a restaurant menu to someone who is blind, or moving things out of the way so someone who uses a wheelchair can get into a building are often the best ways of welcoming and including people with disabilities.

Throughout my life, I have experienced many wonderful instances when those around me have made me feel welcome and included. In high school, a teacher made sure to have a certificate transcribed into Braille so I could read it on my own. Later in college, a professor made sure that one of the computers in his classroom had JAWS, the special screen-reading software I use so I could access it and do my assignments along with my classmates. When I was opening an account at a bank, the person helping me asked if I would prefer to have my statements in Braille, and showed me how the talking ATM worked afterword.

Inclusion is not rocket science, yet many people are often unsure of how to include those of us with disabilities. Since most people never meet, let alone interact, with us, it can be difficult for them to think of ways to include us in everyday activities. Simple and thoughtful acts can go a long way in including and welcoming people with disabilities, and – at least for me – those gestures are ones I will always remember. For me, inclusion is a win-win situation. People with disabilities will feel more welcome, and those without disabilities will become more sensitive to diversity.

What are some of the ways in which people have made you feel more included as someone with a disability? If you are someone without a disability, how do you try to include people with vision loss or other disabilities? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

sandy speaking

Sandy Murillo works at The Chicago Lighthouse, an organization serving the blind and visually impaired. She is the author of Sandy’s View, a bi-weekly Lighthouse blog about blindness and low vision. The blog covers topics of interest to those living with blindness and vision impairments. Being a blind journalist and blogger herself, Sandy shares her unique perspective about ways to live and cope with vision loss.

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