All children and adults are diverse! Diversity does not simply refer to race, ethnicity, language, special needs, or sexual orientation. While it may include these qualities, it’s much broader. For example, we may be different from each other because of our age, how our families are arranged, our body shape, whether we’re rich or poor, the language(s) we speak, where we live, or our learning style. Everyone has rights and should be treated with respect regardless of their perceived difference. Respecting diversity entails being inclusive.
How can we become more inclusive in our daily lives? According to 11 year old Kellen Schleyer who has cerebral palsy and attends Ottawa’s St. Jerome Elementary School, “sometimes mom[s] and dad[s] try to hide [my disability] so it doesn’t make me feel bad, but I don’t mind if they ask the questions. I’m just a normal kid but in this [wheel]chair.” Child-Life specialist, Nora Ullyot says these are subjects that we should discuss with our children. Rather than saying, “They can’t do things, encourage children to see how children with physical challenges do things differently, or that their body works differently.”
For those hoping to build more inclusive schools and communities, it is important to begin by carefully listening to understand how people define their own situation, their aspirations and assets, and the challenges they face. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child refers to the importance of respecting diversity throughout its articles. For example, a child friendly language version of Article 2 states that:
All children [under 18 years of age] have these rights, no matter who they are,
where they live, what their parents do, what language they speak, what their religion is,
whether they are a boy or girl, what their culture is, whether they have a disability,
whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis.
More about the importance of respecting diversity and promoting inclusive communities can be found by reading the following fact sheets.