The opposite of inclusion is not exclusion

I work in the intersection of employment and disability, which gives me an opportunity to engage with diverse thinkers. This fall, I attended OCAD University’s DEEP (Designing Enabling Economies and Policies) conference. Topics discussed included: AI (Artificial Intelligence) and whether it perpetuates human bias; cognitive access and learning differences; and, an introduction to the pros and cons of co-operative platforms. But it was workshop moderator Kevin Stolarick’s comment that really resonated with me: “The opposite of inclusion is not exclusion. It is apathy.”

The comment reminded me of a 2010 TEDx talk by Dave Meslin, a ‘professional rabble-rouser’ who posits that apathy doesn’t really exist—it’s more that we actively discourage people from civic engagement. Could this be true when we talk about disability?

When I talk to employers, I rarely find that they are actively trying to exclude people with disabilities from their organizations. More often, it just seems too big a task to tackle. Or it’s not at the forefront of their day-to-day operations. Or they feel uncomfortable discussing disability and fear possible failure hiring people with disabilities.

The disability employment space is fragmented, with well-intended disability groups competing for funding, time and attention. However, there is rarely incentive to work together to make it easier for businesses to hire inclusively. The goal should be helping business understand the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, and creating clear pathways for businesses hire people with disabilities. Working in our silos only encourages exclusion—or worse, apathy.

There are a few lights on the horizon. If you do want to understand how your company can #ProfitFromInclusion, check out the following organizations and resources: Canadian Business SenseAbility, DiscoverAbility Network and Hire for Talent.