S2. Ep. 4
Conversation Builds Bridges

Date

January 11, 2021

Time

17 minutes

Category

Amplify Inclusion Podcast

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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.


Full Transcript

00:00:00 Clare 

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… 

00:00:32 Clare 

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?  

00:01:24 Hillary 

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.  

00:01:52 Chuck 

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.  

00:02:35 Clare 

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?  

00:03:04 Hillary 

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.  

00:04:06 Clare 

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? 

00:04:29 Chuck 

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. 

00:05:07 Hillary 

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.  

00:05:45 Clare 

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. 

00:06:30 Chuck 

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.  

00:07:25 Hillary 

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. 

00:08:38 Clare 

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? 

00:08:46 Chuck 

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.  

00:09:45 Hillary 

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.  

00:10:35 Clare 

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? 

00:11:05 Chuck 

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. 

00:11:52 Hillary 

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. 

00:13:08 Clare 

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?  

00:13:49 Hillary 

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.  

00:14:32 Clare 

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? 

00:14:42 Hillary 

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. 

00:15:22 Chuck 

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. 

00:15:58 Clare 

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! 

00:16:19 Hillary 

Thank so much Clare and.. 

00:16:20 Chuck 

Thank you so much! 

00:16:23 Hillary 

I look forward to working with you all again in the non-virtual sphere. 

00:16:26 Clare 

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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