Social Inclusion Week: How we can all be more inclusive

Two women make a music therapy and having fun

As Melbourne emerges from being the most locked-down city in the world, many of us have experienced the effects of being excluded from society. Some people, particularly those with disability, experience these feelings all their lives.

With Social Inclusion Week on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what it feels like to be excluded and think about ways we can be more welcoming to people with disability in the spaces and places where we feel like we belong – whether it’s the local sporting club or the corner café.

Social Inclusion Week, which runs from November 20-28 this year, exists to help all Australians feel included and valued. Now in its 13th year, Social Inclusion Week is the brainchild of Jonathon Welch AM, founder of the award-winning Choir of Hard Knocks. It’s about connecting local communities, workmates, family and friends – and giving everyone the opportunity to participate fully in society.

With the big week looming, let’s explore what social inclusion means and what you can do to help people with disability in your local community feel more included.

What is social inclusion?

At its heart, social inclusion is about giving all people the opportunity to live a rewarding life as part of a welcoming community. For people with disability, inclusion can be hard sometimes – you may miss out on some life experiences because the environment doesn’t suit your disability or you can’t access the location.

When you think about social inclusion, you’re acknowledging these challenges and thinking about ways to fix them – to give more people a sense of belonging, as well as choice and control over their lives.

The end goal, not just of Social Inclusion Week but of organisations like Scope, is to create a truly inclusive society. One in which every person can participate fully and equally – in the workplace, public spaces, schools, institutions, community clubs and sporting groups, shops and cafés.

How can I make a difference?

Social inclusion isn’t just about the big stuff, like making shared public spaces accessible to all. It could be as simple as giving a welcoming smile to a new club member in a community group. There are many ways we can all make a difference and be more inclusive.

As you re-enter the world following lockdown – whether it’s returning to the office, rejoining a local sports club or community group, or revisiting your local library – think about how you could be more inclusive and welcoming to people with disability. Are your clubrooms and meeting spaces accessible? What kind of language do you use in your newsletters and communications?

For example, you could consider translating your newsletters and website into Easy English – which summarises the information you want to convey using clear language and images. It’s designed to help people with low literacy to understand your messages. You can see some examples of Easy English at work in these documents about COVID-19.

You could also consider putting steps in place to become a communication accessible organisation. When you do this, you can then display the Communication Access Symbol – which tells those with communication difficulties that your staff are welcoming and treat everyone with dignity and respect; and that you’re here to help them get their message across.

How to get involved in Social Inclusion Week

Explore the events on the Social Inclusion Week website – there may be one near you that you can attend. If there’s not, you could consider holding your own event to bring people together and think more about ‘we’ than ‘me’. A movie screening, BBQ or picnic in the park, or a morning tea, perhaps?

And remember, if you don’t attend or organise an event, you can still make a difference during the week – and beyond. All you need to do is treat each person you meet with the same respect and consideration that you would like to receive yourself. Because everyone deserves to feel like they belong.

Want more ideas?

For other ideas about being more inclusive to people with disability, read our articles on inclusive Halloween activities for kids, hosting kids’ parties for all abilities, and inclusive Christmas festivities.