January 11, 2021
Amplify Inclusion Podcast
Welcome to Amplify Inclusion, a podcast where we share authentic stories of inclusion in action.
Hillary & Chuck join the host for a group chat focused on the benefits and challenges of using dialogue as a means for making positive change. Listen now or view the full transcript below.
This episode was produced by Aspire Inclusive Solutions and engineered, edited and mixed by Subframe Sound with music courtesy of Nealle DiPaolo.
Welcome to Amplify Inclusion. I’m Clare from Aspire. Thanks for joining us we share real stories and conversations about the power and importance of disability inclusion.
Last time, we heard from Chuck & Hillary, two advocates for access in arts and culture who shared their personal stories with us. In this episode, they join me for a group discussion about the importance of using dialogue to advance inclusion and why it’s worth it. Here’s our conversation…
Today I’m here with Hillary & Chuck. We thought it was really important to come together today for a group discussion because we want to really dig into this concept of mindset. So we’ve talked about why mindset matters, what it means, and today we really want to talk about that process of having dialogue. Because the challenge is that productive conversation takes work and intentionality and it’s not always comfortable, right? So we really want to have an honest conversation about what that looks like from all of our perspectives and hopefully help listeners to be motivated to engage in productive dialogue in a way that’s going to be meaningful for them and kind of allow them to work on their own mindset development. So, in your experience, why is conversation such a powerful tool when we’re thinking about our mindsets around inclusion?
I feel like mindset is -it’s habit-forming. It’s creating new ways of stretching how you perceive the world how you perceive experiences and I feel like having that dialogue that back and forth of being able to hear things from other perspectives or have some of the beliefs that you hold sort of challenged or, examined in a new way from a new person really helps you to start make those incremental changes to your own mindset.
Hillary I just wanted to say how much I loved the phrase that you used that mindset is habit forming, because I completely agree. I’ve found in my personal and professional experience, that you find yourself in conversations with like-minded people who like to support what you’re saying, but that can’t be helpful all of the time. So, I think it’s so critical because when you find yourself
surrounded by like-minded people who continually agree with what you’re saying or validate your own experience or your definition of something, as wonderful as it could feel you can kind of get caught in a sounding board loop. So I think it’s really important to have awkward and difficult conversations, or things that might be perceived like that in order to kind of grow your own mindset.
You know something that sticks out to me is that idea of that bubble that you just referred to Chuck that most of the time when we aren’t sure if we want to engage is because we’re either in a professional setting where we’re trying to be mindful of various boundaries or we’re in a bubble outside of our own, where there’s some discomfort associated with that and it kind of leads me to this next idea of- how do you know when it’s the right time to engage?
I think really the time to engage is as early as possible in whatever process it is that your organization, is trying to put into place. Having those questions or starting to get people into the mindset or the habit of asking – can everyone participate? How can everyone participate? It should be part of that internal early process, because I feel like once you’ve already kind of created this idea and it’s already formed in people’s minds as to what this is going to be, it can get so far down a road that thinking about- Oh, we need to deconstruct some things and rebuild is a much more challenging process. And I think strategically in terms of how to- it’s it’s posing questions. What are the things that we need to do to make sure that everyone can fully participate in what we’re doing? So I think inviting people to ask questions and inviting people to think about things is a better strategy than- we should do this, we should do this.
You make a great point how critical it is to start the conversation before we get to that phase. But if we miss that step- let’s say in the case where your past that point- where maybe some of those mindsets are locked in, maybe that opportunity was missed and their needs to be intervention to
redirect the group to thinking more inclusively, if either of you have been in those experiences, what does that bring up for you?
The feeling that I get makes me want to push away. But as a person who identifies as being neurodivergent and being a part of a much larger community, that often gets overlooked. So it can be frightening, it can be awkward. That feeling as awkward or as scary thought it might be, that feeling can actually lead to pretty good conversations. If you allow yourself to be open and kind and respectful of the other person’s opinion. So I think starting with a ground plan of your discourse and what you can do in order to provide meaningful discussions without excluding anybody.
Chuck, I really like what you said about a ground plan of discourse and knowing that you kind of have to constantly check in on things. If you were fortunate enough in a position where you’re in a receptive space or in an organization that has built-in these checks for themselves in mind, that’s awesome. But it’s also the responsibility to make sure that there is sort of that follow through of the steps that need to happen. I think what’s critical in that is the transparency factor of -we are at
this point. These are the steps that need to happen to make this this program or whatever it may be accessible to the participants.
Yeah, I think kind of what you’re both getting to is like if we know that we have a space where we can keep coming back to the table addressing issues and that’s a consistent kind of pattern, it really elevates how frequently those conversations can happen and the effectiveness. And it makes me think of something I’ve been reflecting on lately which is kind of that struggle between like individual and collective responsibility when we’re looking at inclusion and access. Drawing attention sometimes to a larger systemic issue or observing something that’s happening can be something that individuals quickly take personally. It’s not about any one person and the mistake is making it about us.
The biggest challenge that I have had in the past when having conversations with organizations or individuals that are trying to provide accessibility services or are interest in providing any additional kind of help is when I ask why they haven’t done it sooner or what made them want to do it. I asked what services they were providing to people who are blind or low-vision and they were like, ‘oh, well we have some but we don’t have a lot of blind visitors’. And I asked- one is that quantifiable? Two- are the reason that they don’t have those patrons because they don’t provide the services and because they don’t seem interested in providing that service? Three- have people come in and asked or are they afraid because of the environment that you’ve already set up? You know, these are hard conversations to have especially when people try and quantify disability or quantify accessibility, by the way that they perceive other people interacting with the world.
I think through a lot of volunteer work that I’ve done through Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium, has really allowed me to hear more from organizations that are feeling overwhelmed by what accessibility could mean for their space. I think one of the biggest things that I hear is budget and bandwidth. I do feel like there are a lot of resources in the city that can really help organizations think about what is possible and knowing that you’re not going to do everything on your list today or this season or next season, but there are some small shifts that you can make that increase the inclusion for your visitors your patrons or who the populations you’re serving. So, you know having the dialogue having the conversation about you know, well then if you have these services that you’re providing, do you have some inroads into the community? Do you have some service partners? Do you have- what are ways that we can start to build trust in the disability community that what you’re providing, you know will allow them to have a full experience in your space.
Can either of you think of specific moments where through the course of conversation, someone was really able to reframe their thinking and what that looked like?
One of my favorite aha moments happened with an actor when I was discussing with the cast what adjustments we would make for a relaxed and sensory friendly performance which caters to,
but not limited to, people who are on the Autism spectrum or people who have sensory processing disorder or differences. This has happened to me on almost every single show that I’ve worked on, and actor will come up to me afterwards and say “hey, I didn’t realize this before, but if you’re able to do this for this performance, that means my niece can come see me perform for the first time” or my brother’s College roommate – There are so many people that it impacts that when you have that conversation, somebody can just have a spark, you know, whether it’s an actor, whether it’s director, whether it’s a an audience member- when you say: we are trying to provide a difference, a change in how we provide services, and we want to include you, that includes everybody that’s involved. Not just the people who need the service.
And I will say to add to that if we’re thinking about inclusive practices that allow for more people to experience your program, what you’re doing, that inclusivity needs to also transcend to the people putting the art on the stage. It can’t just be an email that is “hey, by the way, we’re doing a sensory friendly relaxed performance day.” There needs to be a process that includes those folks in the room from the get-go. And really talk about what are things that are different today? What are things that we could expect? There’s just so much focus on the outward resources that can be created for our patrons and visitors, that we also need to know that there needs to be the other side of the coin of what are the prep materials and resources that we need to be cultivating updating having lived documents that allow for that internal growth just as much.
So one of the things that’s been coming up in these conversations, and intentionally, is this idea of who should be participating. Because for most of us, unless we had these conversations going on in our households or our classrooms, we don’t really have the opportunities to engage in this type of dialogue until we’re older. So my question to you is – how do you think things could be different if we started making space for these types of conversations at an earlier age?
I’m so excited that you asked this question Clare, because this is one of the things that I’m most passionate about. And I think that it’s importance to encourage dialogue and conversation about inclusion and disability as early as you can. I believe that the reason that I am able to have conversations is because at a young age my parents gave me the vocabulary to express how I was feeling and the things that I was struggling with that I didn’t realize other people weren’t being raised with. So it’s clear that if we were able to start conversations or dialogue with younger aged children or school aged children, they might be able to be more successful in their young adult or adult life if they’re able to implement that in their academic and social life at an early age rather than waiting until later.
I know personally growing up like I think about when I was a kid, you know, it was the kids who were in special education classes were the kids who had physical disabilities and that’s the way I thought about disability as a kid. It was the other it was, you know, we didn’t interact in a really
holistic real way with a lot of the kids in different rooms and how much I lost from having that in introduction interaction and being able to identify that disability is not just a physical thing and it’s not just a visible thing and how much that could have benefited all of us to know what the scope
and scale of disability could be and how – you don’t know what someone’s day-to-day is. You don’t know what their internal processes are. So really being able to be- have that part of our just like social and emotional development as kids would have been I think such a shift for so many people and make some of these conversations that we’re having now, be just one step easier. Being able to start to take some of those layers away as why you’re saying no earlier would only make us more accessible and providing more opportunities for everyone to participate.
You know, if we’re struggling so much now at this phase to like show people the value of universal – but if all we every know is universal, one- we don’t have to fight that battle right, like you were all speaking to, right we save time, we save a lot of energy trying to reframe if we have started with the foundation. So, what advice would you give to people who are maybe really trying to get these conversations started and they’re discouraged because they either keep hearing excuses, or there’s roadblocks or they’re not getting reciprocal engagement. How would you motivate them and any strategies you would offer to keep at it?
I think a way to keep people from losing the faith is trying to identify your allies whether that’s internally in your organization, whether it’s through other organizations, whether it’s through, joining a forum, a group that you feel like you can trust. I think that’s really important because, not only are you able to find and foster relationships with people who feel passionately about inclusion and accessibility, but you also gain a fresh perspective. Maybe someone else has had the same struggles the same barriers encountered with trying to move things up the ladder and they’ve been able to navigate it in a different way.
So what advice would you give to your younger self, in terms of motivating you, not only to take those on but to get through them?
I would say if I could talk to my younger self of just because you went to one session one time at one conference doesn’t mean that you know the best solution for this particular scenario and that not every solution is going to be the same. Don’t come into a room thinking that you are the expert on this, and you need to make sure that you are making sure that their space for other things to be brought up in the conversation that not everybody is where you’re at and not everybody is has been exposed to the same type of people, resources, voices. And that it’s continuing to grow and you’re not you’re not going to be able to do to get things done.
Hillary. Wow that hit close to home, when you said don’t walk into a room because you’ve been to one conference and think that you know everything, because almost all of the accessibility knowledge that I’ve learned and gained through the past couple of years although I’ve taken as many trainings and gone to as many conferences as I can, has come from the people around me. So I think advice I’d give to my younger self was don’t get discouraged when something that worked for somebody else doesn’t work for you. Just because it didn’t go exactly the way that you
planned or it had gone in the past, doesn’t mean that that’s a failure. Failure is a learning experience.
Yeah, I’m glad you added that cause it sets the table for productive conversation. And so it’s kind of that idea that like starting with that assumption that we can all learn something from each other – none of us know everything, together we know a lot. Well this was productive conversation in itself and I appreciate everybody’s time and – thank you!
Thank so much Clare and..
Thank you so much!
I look forward to working with you all again in the non-virtual sphere.
I’d like to thank Chuck & Hillary for sharing their time and insights with us. Join us next time when we meet two more guests committed to starting conversations with kids about disability inclusion. Until then, stay connected with us at aspirechicago.com – and be a part of the inclusive movement by rating and subscribing to Amplify Inclusion. Thanks for joining us! This episode was produced by the Inclusive Solutions team and co-produced and engineered by Subframe Sound.
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