Lesson Length : 20 minutes
The PlayGarden started running inclusive programming in 2005. Since then the staff have heard stories from children and adults with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities, siblings and other youth-care organizations about common barriers to inclusion. The barriers mentioned in this lesson have come directly from those conversations, interviews, focus groups, and workshops.
To start this activity, put yourself in the shoes of being a parent. Try to imagine what it would be like to be be a parent trying to sign your child up for a program or give advice to a program director. With the parent’s perspective in mind, read the following set of quotes from parents of children with disabilities.
Examples: Judgment, stigma, negative perceptions, low expectations.
Examples: Staff knowledge, training, representation in marketing materials.
Examples: Entrance fees, scholarships funds, cost of programs, funding for staff.
Example: A program requires children to be toilet trained, a program requires all children to be within strict age requirements, a child must attend entire class, aides not welcome, only one way to demonstrate skills/knowledge.
Example: The physical space of a program is not physically accessible: pathways are too narrow for someone using a wheelchair to move through, program materials are offered in small font and hard for someone with low vision to access.
Example: Little communication between families and program staff, lack of assistive technology.
“The judgment of other parents is one of the biggest prohibitive factors for going out into the community. It shuts us down. I don’t want to keep feeling like a bad parent or like I’m perceived as a bad parent.”
“Loud noises, lines, and crowds are all so hard for us.”
“It really bothers me when I sign up for a class and ask if my son can bring an aide and get the response that it would be distracting to the other children. I consider my son’s aide a wheelchair. It comes with him and it’s what enables him to access the class. I have to say under ADA, they have to make that accommodation. Other kids don’t even notice.”
“Waiting in lines is hard. Also the cost. Having to pay for another person to participate in the activity such as paying for an aid at the zoo or aquarium . We need an extra person on all memberships, so someone else can come with us.”
“Judgment of other parents. He doesn’t look disabled so people assume he’s just a misbehaving kid and that’s really not the case.”
“We did a cooking class that was a disaster, mostly because of other parents trying to discipline my child. I appreciate offers of help, but hate it when people scold him directly and interfere with him.”
“Trust us as parents that we know what our children need.”
“I’m often uneasy when I call to ask if their place is going to work for my family. Do I tell them my daughter has autism and risk them saying no or do I just give it a try, knowing she might have trouble. I want to give them all the information, but I’m afraid she will be left out or treated differently because of her disability.”
Now, put yourself in the shoes of a youth-care provider. Maybe you are the administrator of an organization, a teacher, or program director, what are the biggest barriers to inclusion you face?
“One of our biggest barriers is having sufficient staffing to adequately support high intensity needs.”
“Barriers for us are mostly societal barriers and lack of accessibility.”
“There are some group settings we have that are noisy and chaotic. This is not ideal for some kids. I do not want to exclude anyone, but also don’t want to subject kids to an environment that they are not equipped to handle. Limited staffing and limited space is most likely the issue for our location, as we cannot separate groups to ensure the environment is not overwhelming.”
“We have stairs in our play garden space where our nature-based program is based. We also have uneven terrain.”
“Most importantly, I don’t think that my two directors want to put the time/money/energy into making the space accessible to children with disabilities.”
“It’s solely me running it and a fear/challenge I face is not being adequately prepared for a child with a particular disability.”
“I would want to “do my homework” on the specific disability and how it is affecting the particular child and I’m not sure of which resources would be best to learn this information (other than asking the parents themselves, which I feel comfortable doing).”
“For us, our barrier is that our programs are all outdoors and these spaces are very able-bodied centric.”
“Our biggest barriers are staff knowledge, training, and comfort level.”