by Sarah Nettleton

Inclusion is more than access. 

Access gives us ramps, accessible bathrooms, parking places near the door, Braille signs, TTY phones, and elevators. 

These accommodations are welcome and essential. 

When do we gain access to your hearts? 

Inclusion is more than access. 

Access gets us in the cafeteria, but doesn’t give us friends to eat lunch with. 

Access gets us an accessible bathroom, but it doesn’t give us friends to fix our hair with. 

Access gets us into the building and up to the second floor, but it doesn’t give us friends to walk down the hall with. 

Access gets special education students a classroom in the public school, but it doesn’t give us a feeling of community. 

We are all students. 

Some of us communicate in different ways. 

Some of us see differently. 

Some of us behave in ways we can’t control. 

Some of us learn at different speeds. 

Some of us walk differently. 

Some of us hear less. 

Some of us are just left out. 

Inclusion occurs when we are valued members of the school community. 

Token inclusion is access. 

Real inclusion involves accepting and valuing each student. 

Simply wearing a school T-shirt is not inclusion. 

Inclusion is having friends who like you for who you are. 

Access gets us in the building. 

Inclusion builds a community. 

© Sarah R. Nettleton 2004

permission given to HopeGateWay for posting here

author biography

Sarah Nettleton lives with her family in Victor, NY. She is a member of the Perinton Presbyterian Church and the Big Moose Community Chapel. She was a youth member of the task force that wrote “Living Into The Body of Christ Towards Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities” 2006 policy for the Presbyterian Church USA. She loves spending time in the Adirondacks. She participates in ceramics class, adaptive downhill skiing and horseback riding. She communicates in many ways, especially her deepest thoughts through supported typing.