No matter how inclusive we are working towards being, we can always do more

This week is National Inclusion Week and it has made me think about the many opportunities I have had over the past years. I often find myself feeling very grateful when it is possible for me to do something that others are doing- whether this is through various adaptions, accessibility or just being included.

National Inclusion Week

Perhaps there will be a point when we will be able to have higher expectations as the world becomes more inclusive. I know that a lot isn’t possible for me with my disability and I have learned to accept this and focus on all the possibilities but it is essential we keep moving forwards. The theme for National Inclusion Week is perfect ‘Time to Act, The Power of Now’.

However, it is as important to glance back every now and then to see how far we have come. For example, this month I completed the Great North Run in my every day wheelchair, along with my husband and friend, who I encouraged to take on the challenge using wheelchairs too. There are the elite wheelchair athletes, and have been for quite a few years, who are using racing chairs but I am thrilled that more recently many events accept everyday wheelchair participants, so this includes people like myself who want to compete with the majority of competitors, not have to invest in an expensive sporty racing chair and raise money for charity. I am off to the Great South Run in October- and again, I am thankful this is allowed.

National Inclusion Week

I also sit in the safety briefing on a track day wondering how I have actually managed to obtain a racing licence and ride a motorbike around a track despite being paralysed from the chest down. Not only that, I feel accepted, included and incredibly welcome despite often being the only female and only disabled person taking part. What I find quite remarkable is the fact that I have this use of innovative adaptive equipment that allows me to fly a microlight, ride a motorbike, ski down a mountain, cycle around the countryside yet it can be very challenging to enter a hotel that is said to be ‘accessible’ and ‘wheelchair friendly’ or even to travel independently.

Last month I was speaking at an event and I opted to stay in a Hilton Hotel as they are usually a safe bet in terms of accessibility. I was alarmed by the slope gradient from the car park to the reception, it was pretty severe, and not many wheelchair users would be able to get in that hotel independently. I am actually quite nervous of travelling alone because you never know what you will come across despite attention to every detail in the planning process which I never used to have to consider.

National Inclusion Week

Other times I use the train to get to events. Again, I feel much safer to have someone with me because I never know if the ramp will turn up and there is a risk of not being able to get off the train at the destination. Combine this with the arduous process of booking ‘special assistance’ which can be lengthly and unreliable- it adds to the stress of something that really should be straight forward and if the world had equal access and opportunities then this wouldn’t be the case. It would be easy to put this right. This is where we can act now- get the simple things right.

National Inclusion Week

I remember getting my first job not long after my accident. I was having to do something new as I could no longer work as a Chiropractor. I lacked a lot of confidence at the time but I knew in order to move forward with my life I needed a reason to get up, a purpose and finding work is an important part of this. It wasn’t my dream job but it was a huge part to regaining self-esteem that had vanished. I also realised that my disability did not mean inability, and I still had a lot to offer as a person, in fact as the years have gone on I have more to offer now than I did prior to my disability. This is the same for thousands of others with disabilities- they can make brilliant employees but just need to be given the opportunities.

One of the many reasons I love the work TOG (The Outdoor Guide) is that they have a mission to make the great outdoors accessible to all and they have found some incredible ‘walks’ that are wheelchair friendly so the barriers that prevent a disabled person from taking on a country ‘push’ in their wheelchair are removed. The reason why these walks for wheelchair users are so reliable is because a wheelchair user tested and reviewed them.

So I question why all hotels, various venues, public transport etc don’t do the same?

Well done TOG.

Blog Author: Claire Lomas

Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is an act.

National Inclusion Week