Opinion: Thoughts on segregated activities
By Jo Vassallo
The Inclusion WA vision is that ‘all people have the opportunity to participate in a welcoming society.’ If we think about what it takes to achieve this vision, it’s really interesting to consider segregated activities, and their place, if any, in working towards it.
When I talk about segregated activities, what I mean is any activity which draws its entire participant body from a particular marginalised group. As my background is largely in disability, I think of segregated activities as those for people with disabilities only, however this term could apply to any marginalised population.
For people with disability there is a vast array of segregated activities that they might become involved in. A large number of activities for any skill level, music groups, sport groups, dance groups, drama groups, craft and woodwork groups, and so many others. In fact, if you have a disability and want to practice a hobby or even get a job, someone has probably created a segregated group for you and others like you.
When I met my partner a few years ago, he was not at all familiar with the politics and trendy views within the disability sector. He, like so many others I’ve met outside the sector, couldn’t even think of a time where he had encountered a person with a significant disability. He was baffled by some of the topics I ranted about on my return from work. He wondered why I got so heated when I discussed segregated settings for people with disabilities.
At the root of my ranting is our vision. If our society is to become more welcoming, then our society has to have the opportunity to see people with disabilities as people who have contributions to make and personalities of their own. If society never sees any people with disability, let alone any of those people making contributions, then they will never be more welcoming. This is why segregation is damaging to our vision. Because it has taught society that there are places for people like them. And guess what? Segregated activities have made society believe that that place is not with the rest of us.
About Jo Vassallo
Jo Vassallo is an ex-Inclusion WA employee and has over ten years’ experience working in the disability sector as a manager and trainer.
*Note: This version has been modified from its original published format due to an editing error.
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