The Definition of Inclusion

Today's post is by John Quinn.  John is an encouragement to our family and so many others for his advocacy and support of those with CP.  When we met him last year, he told us to never give up hope and always treat Jack like he is normal...because Jack will never feel different if he is treated like everyone else.    We are still full of hope today and have treasured his valuable words because he can relate to Jack and other special children so children so well.  Visit his website at: www.johnwquinn.com to learn more about his story of challenge and triumph over cerebral palsy.

The definition of inclusion: noun; the act of including; the state of being included.

The above definition of inclusion is from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  Let me give you my definition of the word inclusion- the one straight from the John Quinn Dictionary of Experience:

Inclusion: Equal opportunity for all.

I believe people, if given the opportunity, can achieve great things.  But they must have a the chance to do so.  Take my career in the military as an example. 

I was born with cerebral palsy, could not walk until the age of four, and kept my condition a secret in order to join the United States Navy.  In fact, I maintained that secret during my entire 20-year military career.  Many people ask me why I choose to keep my cerebral palsy secret.  The answer is this- I wanted inclusion into the military and keeping my handicap secret was the only way I thought I could achieve it.  If my recruiter knew about my CP, he wouldn't have even allowed me to try and take the entrance physical.

Once in the Navy, I achieved some pretty great things, sailing around the world on aircraft carriers, battleships and destroyers.  I had a wonderful career, retiring in 2002 as a Senior Chief Petty Officer- the second highest enlisted rank  you can hold- but I needed the initial opportunity to show what I could do.

I use the military as an example, but inclusion is an issue that cuts across many areas of society, especially for those with disabilities.  People see someone in a wheelchair, wearing a prosthetic limb or using a breathing device and often the first thing that comes to mind is that this person is less capable than an abled-bodied individual.  When someone is looked at in this manner, what happens?  They don't get asked in for that job interview, granted access to mainstream schools or allowed to serve their country.

Please understand, I'm not asking for a lowering of standards to make everyone feel good.  In fact, I say keep your standards high.  I expect nothing less.  What I'm asking for is equal opportunity-that same chance- to hit that standard you have set.  If I can do so - then I have the chance to do great things for society and myself.

And a chance is all anyone desires.

John W. Quinn is the author of Someone Like Me - An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph over Cerebral Palsy.  He is also a navy veteran and disability advocate.

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