When it comes to increasing inclusion for people with disabilities (PWDs), it is important to determine what are the factors that lead to a lack of inclusion in the first place. Rarely is the problem only a simple lack of awareness of the needs of PWDs, there are typically multiple other systemic frictions that make participation by PWDs more difficult.
I define full inclusion of PWDs as providing PWDs the same level of access to participation as the able-bodied community. The general public also encounters frictions to participate in certain activities too. Therefore, rather than addressing all the frictions involved, I think it is important to address those frictions that are specific to PWDs and result the gap in rates of participation.
On an individual level (Bottom Up):
Insufficient Awareness – The person is unaware of the availability of the activity. They don’t realize they are able to do something or to go somewhere. They are unaware of the assistive technology that provides the Means and Opportunities to participate (as defined below).
Insufficient Motivation – The person is aware of the activity, but doesn’t think it is worth the effort to participate in. This lack of Motivation could be the result of a lack of Awareness. There may be an unwillingness to be adaptable.
Insufficient Means – The person may have the Motivation but lacks the physical capability to participate in the activity. Many times, this capability could be created by assistive technology. The person may have the capacity to participate but may lack the required skill level. There may be a lack of funds for acquiring the Means to participate.
Insufficient Opportunities – The person may have the Means but lacks access to the place to engage in the activity. Access is typically thought of in terms of ADA accessibility. Access also includes participation in activities that inherently do not follow ADA guidelines. There may be a lack of available funds or transportation for taking advantage of Opportunities that do exist.
On a societal level (Top Down):
Insufficient Awareness – Society is unaware that PWDs desire to engage in the activity. They don’t realize that PWDs are willing and able to do something or to go somewhere. They are unaware of the assistive technology that provides the Means for PWDs participate.
Insufficient Motivation – Society is aware of the activity but doesn’t think it is worth the economic effort to enable PWDs to participate. This lack of Motivation could be the result of a lack of Awareness. Segments of society may not want the participation of PWDs for a variety of reasons due to the negative stigma associated with disability. There may be an assumption of a large number of perceived problems and few perceived benefits. There may be a cultural unwillingness to be adaptable.
Insufficient Means – Society lacks the structural capability to enable PWDs to participate in the activity. Many times, this capability could be supplemented by assistive technology. Society may have the capacity to enable PWDs to participate but may lack the required knowledge and training. There may be a lack of available funding for enabling Means.
Insufficient Opportunities – Society lacks access to the places to engage in the activity. Access is typically thought of in terms of ADA accessibility. Access also includes participation in activities that inherently do not follow ADA guidelines. There may be a lack of available funding for creating new Opportunities. There may be a lack of structural adaptability.
The above frictions are both distinct and interconnected to varying degrees. By reducing one area of friction, it may help reduce another area. As described, individual and societal frictions are both similar and parallel concepts. In many cases, the methodology applied to reducing an individual friction can be applied to reducing societal friction and vice-versa.
It is important to recognize that PWDs are not a monolithic group. Neither is society uniform in its approach and attitude toward PWDs. Therefore, these frictions will vary on personal, geographical, cultural, and institutional levels.
The frictions have been organized into a checklist grid to create a framework for increasing participation of PWDs by systemically identifying and then reducing frictions. Rather than taking a linear approach, the frictions can be tackled in whatever manner desired in different circumstances given the unique factors involved.
The rate of Participation and amount of Frictions are inversely proportional. Therefore, the overall goal is to reduce the overall frictions from a high to a low level. The Grid creates a general outline to refer to without stipulating a hierarchy or specific order to follow. It can be used as a tool with existing or new action plans by both individuals and organizations intent on creating change.