Why my “words to live by” are about diversity and inclusion

For my bio here on the BWG website, I chose to highlight my favorite quote: “diversity is a fact; inclusion is an act.”

I thought about explaining my “why” as something a little on the generic side – about how all people are different and how we all deserve to have a seat at the metaphoric table. And, while that sentiment is very true, the real reason my quote is about diversity is much more personal.

I am a parent of four children. Of course, all my children have their own personalities and differences in terms of likes and dislikes, and abilities; but one of my children is more obviously different than his siblings.

My youngest son has a disability — cerebral palsy (CP) — that affects his ability to do the things other children his age do without much effort. CP is a life-long condition that, like many other conditions, has a wide range of how it affects people. My son has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy meaning it affects all four of his limbs, making it nearly impossible for him to do a lot of things independently and this puts him on the more severe end of the CP spectrum. He uses a wheelchair, and he needs help for his basic needs. 

My chosen quote about diversity and inclusion certainly is applicable to all areas of diversity, but I chose it because of how is relates to people who have disabilities. I chose it because sometimes we need to make changes to ensure everyone is welcome. Whether it’s making physical changes to accommodate someone’s needs to access or participate differently, or it’s making changes to our language to ensure people feel comfortable; inclusion is an important act that benefits everyone.

In my life raising a young child with a disability, these acts of inclusion are stores with Caroline carts; playgrounds that have activities at wheelchair height and, even better, playgrounds that have special needs swings and wheelchair-friendly terrain; children’s books and toys that show people with disabilities; and bleachers with ramps at youth sports fields.

Diversity is all around us and disability is just one of the many ways diversity can be present. To be inclusive, we often need to take intentional action. Everyone deserves to participate, be represented, be seen, and feel valued and welcome.  Microsoft said it well in an Xbox campaign a few years ago: “when everyone plays, we all win.” Being inclusive is an act that benefits everyone.

March is national cerebral palsy awareness month. If you’d like to learn more about cerebral palsy, visit the Cerebral Palsy Foundation at YourCPF.org.