Marietta Mehanni

Am I Included Yet?

Am I included yet? Caitlin Syer, living with disability, intellectual disability, creating inclusion and valuing diversity

Written by admin

January 6, 2024

A Reflection on International Day of Disabilities:

As I sit down to write this post on the International Day of Disabilities, I can’t help but reflect on the question: Am I included yet?

My name is Caitlin (CJ) and I’m a 29-year-old woman living with an intellectual disability.

The journey of living in a world that often feels indifferent, uncaring and oblivious to the challenges I face has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

Today, on this special day dedicated to raising awareness about disabilities, I want to share my thoughts on the ever-important quest for inclusion.

Growing up, I always found myself on the outside of social circles, trying to be included and work out the rules of interaction that seemed to come so naturally to others. School and the playground was a battleground, where I struggled with friendships and the isolation that comes from being seen as different.

As the years went by, the challenges evolved, but the feeling of being on the outside looking in persisted. Inclusion goes beyond physical accessibility; it’s about creating an environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging. It’s about acknowledging and embracing our differences, recognizing that diversity is not a barrier but to be valued, something that enriches our collective experience. For individuals like me with intellectual disabilities, inclusion means having our voices heard and valued, even if they may sound a little different and make those without disabilities a little uncomfortable.

The workplace is another arena where the battle for inclusion wages on. As a 29-year-old woman, I wish to contribute my skills and talents to society, just like anyone else. However, the job market can be a daunting place when faced with preconceived notions about what I can or cannot achieve. It’s disheartening to encounter skepticism instead of encouragement, to be judged by perceived limitations rather than celebrated for unique abilities.

But let me be clear: I am not defined by my disability

I am defined by my dreams, my passions, and the determination to overcome obstacles in my path. I yearn for a world where employers see beyond stereotypes and recognize the untapped potential that individuals with disabilities bring to the table. Friendship, employment, education – these are not privileges; they are fundamental rights that should be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. As we celebrate the International Day of Disabilities, let’s challenge ourselves to foster an inclusive society. It’s about more than just raising awareness; it’s about changing mindsets, breaking down barriers, and building a world where the question “Am I included yet?” is replaced with a resounding “Yes!”

Let us all embark on this journey of inclusion together, ensuring that every person, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, can fully participate in all areas of life. The road may be long, but with understanding, empathy, and a commitment to change, we can create a world where inclusion is not just a buzzword but a lived reality for all.

Caitlin (CJ)

Written by Caitlin’s mum Carol Syer, as told and experienced by Caitlin.

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