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#3DVU​​​ Far Away from Real Inclusion! Episode 6 Season 2

#3DVU​​ Far Away from Real Inclusion! Episode 6 Season 227 min read

We try to move past the conversations that we’ve been having for years because we think that’s, that’s enough, we’ve solved that problem, but we haven’t. Real practical experience and data show that we are have not made as much progress as we think. In this episode, we explore that reality and what we can do.

Transcript of Episode 6 Season 2

LaMondre Pough: people are still siloing that off people are still siloing the issues surrounding the disability community in its own special little pocket.

And whenever you do that, whenever you silo it off, whenever you make it a ‘their thing’ or make it an ‘our thing’ in terms of the community itself, you really don’t gain the benefits of real allies and accomplices because people never really see themselves in that, or they never understand the fight.

So what ends up happening many times is it’s still being approached from a charitable perspective. It’s what I’m doing for them. It’s what society is doing for those people over there. Not realizing that those people over there are society, not realizing that I am a part of them.

Welcome to 3DVU, one conversation, three different perspectives. I’m LaMondre Pough.

David Pérez: I am David Pérez.

Richard Streitz: And I’m Richard Streitz. Thank you for joining us.

David Pérez: Hello everyone. And welcome to another edition of 3DVU. Today I wanted to bring a topic that’s been bothering me a lot, and I want to hear LaMondre’s and Richard’s perspectives on it.

And actually everyone who’s listening to this because I know that most of our audience is involved in the same industries that we are and must be facing the same things. The thing is that I’ve been working on an academic paper recently and the paper is about development. International cooperation for development and the inclusion of people with disabilities in Costa Rica specifically. That paper is of course about developmental and how countries can cooperate together to include people with disability in terms of development. And I started having conversations with different people in academia, across the world. Not only here in Costa Rica, but across the world. And a comment that they kept, that I kept receiving was ‘that’s very innovative. I love what you’re doing because it’s approaching it from a very innovative perspective’.

And of course I thanked them and I kept moving on. But after I kept receiving it once and twice and three times and four times I started to think, is this really as innovative as they think it is because from my perspective, from the work that we do, from where we are, from where I’m sending, it’s just another piece in the puzzle of actually trying to make people realize that inclusion needs to include, like development needs to include everyone.

But then another piece of the puzzle hit me. I was writing a phrase and since it’s an academic paper, they told me try to find someone that supports what you’re saying here, because it, it might not be, as you think it is. And I was hard-pressed two hours of research online to find someone that supported what I was trying to say.

And that’s, that you cannot have real development if you don’t include people with disabilities. And that shocked me. That shocked me to the core, because everything that we do is trying to include people with disabilities and include all disenfranchised communities to achieve success in development for everyone and not being, seeing that’s not out there in academia.

It means that’s not out there government. That’s not out there in religious institutions that’s not out there. So I started looking outside of my box and realized that we are way far behind from where we think we are. We try to move from conversations that we’ve been having for years, because we think that’s, that’s enough, we’ve solved that problem, but we haven’t.

And we haven’t not only in the U S but we haven’t anywhere in the world hasn’t simply started including people with disabilities, just because we say they have. Or because we think that they have, or because someone somewhere did something special for the community, that doesn’t mean that mindsets have changed, that things are changing, that people are actually including people with disabilities or other disenfranchised populations.

So that’s what I want to talk about. I want to talk about where are we really, in terms of inclusion, are we really where we think we are? Or should we start, start from scratch. Start from somewhere different. Start the conversation again. Guys?

Richard Streitz: It’s it’s a, it’s an interesting and fascinating point of of observation. And I, I think there’s certainly true in government. Just based on some of the things that we’re involved with professionally and working on dealing with legislators on incorporating persons with disabilities as being part of the conversations, helping forum laws, regulations, policies in a number of different States is a very real and continually ongoing conversation. And it has to be a conversation because it’s not immediately obvious, and so that is, you’re absolutely right that is somewhat shocking. That it’s something that needs to, they are conversations that need to happen to convince people that this is the right thing to do when it should be, pretty painfully obvious, there’s, there’s terms around, ‘nothing about us without us’ and this sort of thing that that are used, but doesn’t really sink in and doesn’t really achieve the the end goal of actually involving and including persons with disabilities, into these conversations.

And, and I think the short answer is ‘no’, I think corporations want to believe that they’re farther along than they are, but push come to shove. I think that, what you’re doing is from an academic standpoint is ultimately exposing a much larger systemic issue.

David Pérez: Yeah.

Yeah, but that’s the problem. That’s systemic. It’s across the board. It’s not only in academia. It’s everywhere.

Richard Streitz: Oh yeah. Very much and so how, is the industry strong enough or has it been strong enough? Has it been too self-absorbed over the years in, in, in trying to move the needle and in doing so just create a dual loops internally within the industry of having saying the same things or modifying the, the language of saying the same thing. But ultimately, is it getting outside of the spheres of the industry itself? As the industry has just become too self-absorbed in itself with the it’s its own internal dialogue and how much of that is having that sort of global effect.

And I think that we’re seeing is and certainly based on your observations that it’s not necessarily having as grand effect as we like to think that is not that it’s not happening, but it’s not necessarily happening at the scale that we believe that it is or has been happening.

LaMondre Pough: Yeah, And hearing this for me, it’s not surprising, but it is quite disappointing.

And honestly, I was involved in a conversation about maybe about a week ago, and this was something that came about. And I’m speaking now from an example here in the U S and that was, I realized that many organizations, businesses have ADA transition plans. All right. And these have been businesses that have been around for quite some time.

I’m not talking about new businesses that did not know or anything like that. And my question became wait a minute. The ADA was signed into law in 1990. It is 2021 and we’re still writing a transition plan. We’re still saying in 30 years, in over 30 years, we have not transitioned to fix these set of issues that this plan was designed to address.

And what that told me right then was wait a minute. Where we want to be, where we perceive ourselves as being we’re absolutely not there because we’re still trying to cover the basics. We’re still fighting for people with disabilities to be paid minimum wage. Not just the promotion and the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce, but literally there is a legitimate fight for people with disabilities to receive the minimum wage that currently exists.

So just that alone is commentary to tell you. That we are not as far as we thought we are. And I think that, it’s what you said, Richard is because we have been working so hard in our areas, trying to get the message out, trying to put out that we’ve created an echo chamber where we end up preaching to the proverbial choir.

Where it’s literally, we’re hearing our own song. Over and over again. So we see a progress within us because we’ve changed or we’ve moved the needle in terms of the way that we see it. But the rest of it, hasn’t moved. I liken it unto turning the ship. You can spin the riders, you can do everything you want to do, but that ship, Ooh, it’s not stopping on a dime.

It’s not even stopping on a dollar. Okay. So it’s it takes so much more. And the frustrating part is that you get so much of this stuff. Oh, that’s so good for you. That’s awesome that you’re doing that. Like when you say ‘nothing about us without us’, good for you. Good for you.

Richard Streitz: Right.

LaMondre Pough: When really.

Richard Streitz: Great catchphrase, right?

LaMondre Pough: But really the cause, no, it’s good for us it’s good for all of us. And we still have not crossed that, that threshold we have not made the connection with the rest of the society, that this is really where we are. We still praise and clap to see models with disabilities or actors with disabilities working.

We we still praise that and that’s great. We need to see that, but let’s also give relevance and ingredients to the fact that we’re not where we want to be. And we’re not where we necessarily think that we are.

David Pérez: Yeah. Yeah. So you guys are basically confirming what I was thinking.

LaMondre Pough: Yeah.

David Pérez: We’re definitely nor, not where we want to be. Where we need the conversation to be at, to achieve more progress. And we see that in the conversations that we have with corporations and all the different agencies. It’s more of a buzzword than actual inclusion for them. And I have another experience with this and I don’t want to diminish the work that United Nations has done to include people with disabilities because it’s amazing.

And it’s something that, it’s actually brought the inclusion of people with disabilities to the table in many conversations. But one thing that I, that happened to me when I was working there, I had to write some speeches for someone I won’t, I’m not going to say the names, but I had to write some speeches.

And I wrote this speech thinking about everyone, including everyone in the wording, but not specifically pointing them out. And when I gave the speech for review, they came back and said, you need to mention women, girls and people with disabilities, because we need to do that to meet a quote.

It had to be there mentioned because they needed to be pushing it out there. Not because they actually meant to do something, not because it was actually going to translate into projects. They needed it there because it was a directive from headquarters that everyone had to mention girls, women, people with disabilities and indigenous people in their texts, speeches, and whatever that came out.

That’s good, but it’s simply not enough. Why? Because you’re just putting every disenfranchised population together and saying this applies to you, but there’s no actual action. And when there’s no action, when rhethoric is not accompanied by actual action change doesn’t happen. And when change doesn’t happen, then a couple of years after you’re facing the same problems.

LaMondre Pough: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I believe that what has happened is we’ve got caught in the rhetoric. We got stuck in just the saying it loud, I’m black and I’m proud. We got stuck in, in, in that portion of it. But we still have not effectively moved the needle.

And we saw some major progress that happened from the sixties through the nineties. And we’re still seeing progress that’s happening through that. But again, is it really thinking because people are still siloing that off people are still siloing the issues surrounding the disability community in its own special little pocket.

And whenever you do that, whenever you silo it off, whenever you make it a ‘their thing’ or make it an ‘our thing’ in terms of the community itself, you really don’t gain the benefits of real allies and accomplices because people never really see themselves in that, or they never understand the fight.

So what ends up happening many times is it’s still being approached from a charitable perspective. It’s what I’m doing for them. It’s what society is doing for those people over there. Not realizing that those people over there are society, not realizing that I am a part of them. And so when things go absolutely bonkers, which they inevitably will in the world that we live in, what ends up happening is those people over there and that silo group over there becomes less of a priority because they are not a part of the whole, they’re not seen as a part of the central mass, but there are over a billion people on this planet with disabilities. That’s a billion with a B. The largest minority group that anybody can join at any time, but we’re still siloed off.

And some of that is our fault. Some of that is, and when I say our I’m talking about people with disabilities, I’m one of them just in case you didn’t know that. Some of that is our fault because we end up a lot of times in fighting for a piece of the pie in terms of okay yeah, I have a mobility impairment.

So this is my issue. Or I have an intellectual disability. So these are the, this is the pie that I’m fighting for over here. And doing that we effectively lessen the power of our numbers. We less than the power of the connectivness that we have with lessen the power of the unity that we could have.

And of course, what happens then is that people see us as pocketed and siloed.

Richard Streitz: Yeah. It’s so interesting. Cause you bring up a couple of great points. Certainly since the inception of the ADA from that point forward, it was always just about about compliance.

Code satisfying a requirement and not necessarily looked at for the reason why it was put in the place to begin with to be more inclusive, to a portion of society that had been ignored or disenfranchised because of the the inaccessibility of the environments at the time that were that existed.

And the end game of the inclusiveness of how and why the ADA came about suddenly became flipped on its head and was all about just checkbox compliance and the, as a result, the attitude of that has really been ingrained into that, that any conversation about accessibility and inclusion immediately snaps to the compliance checkbox idea or thought process, whether it’s a corporate organization or an individual or whatever, unfortunately, that’s just the way we’ve filed that.

And, as you said, what certainly compounds and exasperates that issue is the horrible fractionalization of the person with disability community to begin with, because like I said, everyone is buying for the attention of garnishing that, that piece of the pie and coming up with the solution for their individual group or what have you.

And that of course weakens the strength of the overall any overall strategy to generate true inclusiveness as a societal as a societal necessity. And so what’s interesting is the times that we are, that we’re in right now as a result of COVID and the isolation that we’ve been, I think what’s happened is that has actually helped expose the realities that many persons with disabilities face on a day-to-day basis that now many individuals across a much broader spectrum of the population are experiencing firsthand.

And that’s created a little bit more empathy for the isolational aspects and the and the inaccessible aspects of persons with disability. And your analogy of the of the boat I think is spot on because, we’re we’re a super tanker that culture society right now, we’re super tanker.

That’s going full speed ahead. And with what’s happened with, COVID trying to steer left to now try to absorb perhaps larger, to adjust like corporate America and everything, having to adjust how they do business now and everything. And all of that in has exposed so much of these cracks and fissures that have existed in our society.

It’s really made them much more obvious that there is some rethinking that’s happening now, it’s slow, of course. But I think. One of the good things that’s happened as a result of this is the exposure, it certainly doesn’t excuse or explain how the past 30 years has gone by with, without any true major advancements.

And that’s not to diminish the work of some organizations and some individuals that have really done tremendous work. That’s not, I don’t think any of us are looking to diminish any of that work. That’s happened, we’re talking in a very broad sense. And how, 30 years later, the fact that you have to try to convince legislators to include persons with disabilities into the conversation that, that that affect them is shocking.

LaMondre Pough: Yeah. You mentioned something to Richard about things being relegated to regulation in code. And here’s one of the issues whenever we adopt the mentality, that is what the principal piece of it is. And not about the spirit of why you’re doing these regulations, why you have these codes whenever you adopt that it is when you adopt the mentality that it is about regulation and codes you are inherently put you in you’re put at odds with the way that society is actually set up. Automatically is there becomes an adversarial relationship. And because, because here’s the thing, you cannot legislate an attitude. You cannot legislate how someone is feeling or thinking about something.

So the thing is to reflect on the spirit of the law and what those advocates and what those policymakers, what their agenda was when creating these laws. It was not about the regulation of the code, even though that’s a necessary piece of it. It was not about checking the box, even though that may be a necessary piece of it, but it is about the inclusion, the human interactions that bring us together in a human settlements, so it’s a it’s almost like we’re having to, it wasn’t just planting the seed, but it’s getting people to recognize the plant that, that seed is there to produce.

But we’re still looking at the root system.

Richard Streitz: And that’s what happens when you don’t water it or nurture or care.

For it it never sprouts or it’s horribly stunted and it’s in its growth pattern. I think. I think the, you know, everyone had absolutely the best intention with the spirit to which the ADA was put into place and signed and all that. And I think what happened over the years quickly after that is the fact that industries and companies, and as soon as dollars were associated with it, it suddenly started becoming this other thing, that created and shifted focus from the end the, the spirit of what it was intended for to become this other thing that took a life of its own and really, dramatically diminished ultimately what the spirit of it was because it was all about it was all about X number. I have X number of restrooms, which means I have to have so many stalls that are that are compliant. And so how can I configure this? Where it, it costs me the less it, it became a game, right?

It became, what can I do to meet requirement without actually interfering or providing as much access because they had it in their head that somehow that was more expensive. And as a result of just the year after year of this sort of mentality, it framed and created this other thought process about what accessibility really is versus compliance.

Not realizing that in fact, the compliance aspect of it is just an ends to the means the idea and the reason is accessibility.

David Pérez: Yeah. Yeah, you guys are talking about the ADA and I just want to make the point that around the 1990s, when the ADA was approved, all the countries in Latin America, approved laws, protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

So there’s a very interesting paper published by the economic commission for Latin America and the Caribbean ECLAC that’s titled ‘from legal recognition to real inequalities’, because even though people with disabilities across the continent found legal recognition of their rights, inequalities became that much more real.

They were they never got their rights protected, even though they were legally recognized and that was published in 2011. And I don’t think things have changed much since then. And one thing that, that I find very interesting is that whenever you talk to someone about inclusion of people with disabilities, they like, they listen.

It’s not like they, they don’t want this to happen. They are, they’re just overwhelmed by the unknown nature of disability to most people, they don’t understand the community and they don’t understand how to include them. So when it doesn’t become a part of their lives, like if it’s not someone they know that has a disability or they themselves have a disability, they’re not going to take any action because nothing in their lives is making them think about people with disabilities.

Society as a whole has made it clear that people with disabilities are hidden from most people, a lot of people in Costa Rica, and I can tell you that by experience, don’t have a relation with anyone with a disability until they go to college. Imagine how inclusive as a society like that is. And how inclusive can you expect it to be?

If you don’t know what the problem is, if you can’t actually recognize it or understand it, are you going to do something to solve it? We got to remember that people have, every person is a world. It is a saying in Latin America, every person has a lot of things that they’re dealing with and trying to get them to think about accessibility or inclusion.

It needs to come from what LaMondre was saying a mindset change. So even though it’s hard, I think that as an industry, we need to take a step back and go back to basics.

LaMondre Pough: Yeah.

David Pérez: Let’s start from the beginning. We need to explain what inclusion is. What’s the community that people with disabilities, who are we, why is it important to include everyone? And not just the business case we’ve made the business case.

Richard Streitz: It’s the human case.

LaMondre Pough: Right.

David Pérez: Yeah.

LaMondre Pough: Yeah. I would agree with that. I think we have outpaced our own progress in that the idea is just not that I understand it, but that I internalize it. And I also help others to understand it and that they internalize it as well, but internalize it from a different place.

Because in so many instances, we’re still talking about medical issues when we talk about disability and here’s the thing, it’s not a medical issue, it’s not a medical issue at all, but we still approach it from a medical perspective or we in many instances, and when I say we I’m talking about society, we devalue people with disabilities.

And a lot of times we don’t even intend to, but we do it by the way our systems are set up. And by the way that we approach a disability within itself. So it is a change in mentality. That’s one of the reasons that I focus so much, I did a presentation a couple of weeks ago for a, for an organization.

And the first things that I said when we opened up the presentation is I’m not giving you technical assistance in this particular presentation. If you want to know what your counter height should be, how many ramps you have and all that kind of stuff. There’s plenty of resources out there for this. But what I am here to talk about is how to create environments that are truly inclusive.

So we need to talk about how do we change the way that we think about the inclusion of people with disabilities. How do we think about inclusion in general? Because the truth is we also see this when it relates to race, we see this when it relates to gender, we see this where relates to so many other aspects of life, but we also see where other groups have made progress by uniting by coming together.

By making, not my issue, a siloed off issue into this corner because I’m a person with a mobility impairment, but by joining with other people who may have other disabilities and who may not even have a disability, but may regard, may be regarded as having a disability or someone who is closely connected to the groups or individuals with disabilities. So really make them the coalition of that and moving it forward, I think helps the world to open up to it a bit more. But it is a complete mind shift.

Richard Streitz: Yep.

Absolutely agree.

LaMondre Pough: Yeah. So how do we begin to, how do we begin to do that? I know one of the things that I mentioned was. By really getting our real allies and accomplices. And the difference between an ally and an accomplice is, an ally is someone who empathizes with the situation, but they’re not necessarily rolling up their sleeves and the trenches, they may make some connections and that kind of thing, but then accomplice, accomplice is somebody who’s getting in there, there’s somebody who’s actually pulling up.

Who’s marching with you, who speaking with you, who are, who’s in the trenches, trying to make that change with you and who can open doors and areas that you may not necessarily be able to do so because they are not directly impacted by the situation, but they may have access to areas and they understand it.

So this is what we’re looking at. First of all, it’s, I often call it finding the champion and being the champion. I’ve said that before on the show, but it’s about finding the champion. Who are your accomplices? Who are your allies and leaning on that relationship, but also being a champion. Being that for someone else who may have an issue or a cause that you’re not closely associated with, but you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get into the trenches.

So that’s one way of moving this needle forward. And I think the other thing that David said was going back to basics, going back to the basics. We want to be so much further ahead and we honestly, we should be so much further ahead. And in an ideal world, we wouldn’t even have to have this conversation, but the truth is because this is what we’re saying.

We’ve got to adapt. If we want to make a change, it’s almost like. It’s almost there’s a widget that I designed that I want everybody to buy, but nobody’s interested in it because they don’t understand it at all. So I need to find out what is it that they can bite, what is it that they can chew, what it’s it, that they will buy and build on it from there.

And when we build influence in that area, then we can begin to turn the heads to point in the direction that we’re really trying to go.

David Pérez: Yeah. Yeah. And that way we can actually shift conversations and actually move the needle because we’ve been doing so much work as an industry. And a lot of good things have happened across the world, but it’s not enough when we’re talking about billions of people with disabilities across the world.

Inclusion has to become a given. And it’s far from that it’s an after thought at best.

And it’s a lazy afterthought when it happens. It’s, it’s not actually something that they’re that most companies, most organizations, most governments are actually bringing to the table and being aggressive and trying to make an impact with it’s something that they do because it’s, it’s in that law that we approved in, in the nineties. We actually have to try and do.

Richard Streitz: Or if it’s an election year and somebody brings it up to them and they’re forced to have to, address it or, something like that, that’s..

David Pérez: Yeah. But on a positive note, I want to go back to what I said earlier when we talk people listen.

So let’s use that time that they’re giving us wisely. Yeah, I haven’t. I have yet to find a person that is not interested in the inclusion of people with disabilities, because I think that fundamentally people understand that they can become a part of it. The problem is they don’t understand the community.

They don’t understand inclusion. They don’t understand what that means, and it’s not pressing enough for them to actually do something right now. So how do we ship the message for them to actually see that if they don’t do something now, they’re not going to do it any time soon and soon enough, someone they know or themselves are going to be a part of the community of people with disabilities.

And they’re going to be disabled by society because society is what’s putting those barriers up for people with disabilities to not be fully participating. Yeah, I guess that’s what we have to do.

LaMondre Pough: Absolutely.

David Pérez: Change the message, innovate by going back.

LaMondre Pough: Innovate by going back and you know what sometimes in order to move forward, you have to go back and that’s what we’re talking about doing here.

So here’s the thing we’re not talking about stopping progressive conversations. We’re not talking about ending the dialogue of how of what the ideal would be and what we want to see. But what we’re talking about here is taking a moment looking where you are evaluating what the landscape looks like and adjusting to making that landscape grow to what you want it to be. And that’s that’s what this conversation is about. And I’m glad that we’re having the conversation because it is a refocusing. It’s a retooling. It’s an understanding of the idea is for humans to elevate. And we can’t elevate if we don’t take care of the basics first.

David Pérez: Thank you for listening.

Thanks for joining us this week on 3DVU. Make sure to visit our website That’s where you can subscribe to the show wherever you listen to podcasts or join our YouTube channel so you will never miss a show. While you’re at it, if you find value in the show, we appreciate it if you would leave a like or comment or simply tell a friend about the show that would really help us a lot too. If you would like to join our conversations, you can join our Facebook community 3DVU, three perspectives, one conversation. .