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Accessibility is Not Inclusion: Scott Rains on changing the conversation

What if the first question we asked was, “What is so unique about this situation that it justifies ex­clusion?” instead of, “How much does it cost to make it accessible?”

These aren’t my words, but those of disability rights guru Dr. Scott Rains in a recent excellent article in New Mobility magazine.

Scott Rains Accessibility is Not Inclusion: Scott Rains on changing the conversation

Dr. Scott Rains

Scott Rains is one of those open-minded, forward-thinking individuals who are changing the conversation around disability. He has been doing it for years, on his excellent Rolling Rains Report and on frequent whirlwind trips and speaker appointments around the world, but we’re only just starting to listen.

His article is a beautifully phrased and sensitively considered exhortation to reject simple, weary, standards-compliant ‘accessibility for the disabled’ in favor of the more complex yet more fruitful concept of inclusion. He writes:

“Accessibility looks backward. It goes halfway toward overcoming outmoded and artificial standards of what – and who – is “normal”…. Inclusion looks forward.”

The article sets out with convincing clarity the business case for inclusion and the concept of universal design, explaining to doubters that “The word ‘universal’ doesn’t mean ‘one-size-fits-all’. He ends with a ringing entreaty:

“Accessibility is doing for – a 20th-century task. Inclusion is doing with – a 21st-century vision. Which approach makes for stronger communities?”

Dr. Rains is right. If you believe, as most of us do, that the language we use affects the way we perceive the world and the decisions we make, then we must fight to replace ‘disability’ and ‘accessibility’ with ‘universality’ and ‘inclusion’.

Download a PDF of Scott Rains’ article Accessibility is Not Inclusion, published in New Mobility magazine in January 2011.

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7 Responses

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by usabilityfreund, Monica Guy. Monica Guy said: #Accessibility is Not #Inclusion: Scott Rains on Changing the Conversation http://bit.ly/evmyJM #a11y #disabilities [...]

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Scott Rains, Brian Seaman. Brian Seaman said: RT @srains: Appreciated Monica Guy's article: http://tinyurl.com/4ehlpf8 [...]

  3. I could not have said it better myself.

  4. Physical accessibility, in my view, is a vehicle for the consecration of superior rights of human beings, such as: the free movement, non-discrimination, full inclusion of people, especially those who have a disability or disabling circumstance .

    I believe that accessibility does not look back. It is the tool that has the listing to look ahead.

    Inclusion can not exist if the physical accessibility and urban mobility is not fully guaranteed.

    I think both concepts are complementary rather than conflicting.

    Without accessibility, and more specifically “safe access”, there is no possible inclusion.

  5. Comparto rotundamente los conceptos de la aplicabilidad de normas técnicas y reglamentaciones.
    “It establishes a floor, but often assumes the ceiling is out of reach.”
    Completamente de acuerdo con esta frase.

  6. Strongly agree with the concepts of the applicability of technical rules and regulations.
    “It establishe a floor, But Often assume the ceiling is out of reach.”
    Completely agree with this statement.

  7. The concept of Universal Design should now be at the heart of manufacture. Our societies are becoming older and there are more people than ever who identify themselves as having a disability. We have tried very hard at http://www.trabasack.co.uk to create a product that is useful to people of all abilities.

    I also like the idea of replacing disability with universality !

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