Integration vs. Inclusion

Sometimes when we talk about inclusion, we’re really talking about integration.  So what’s the difference and does it really matter?  The answer is YES.

Integration, according to Dictionary.com, means the “intermixing of people or groups previously segregated.”  In other words, I’m here and ready to mingle! But that doesn’t mean I’m involved or accepted into the fold.  I simply just exist among others.  It’s like showing up to a Spice Girls’ concert wearing a Dave Matthews Band t-shirt… I’m here, among music loving people but clearly do not belong to this herd. 

Inclusion on the other hand is being a part of something larger.  It’s belonging to a community built on true connection to others.  Communities like family at the annual reunion who always includes Aunt Betty.  You know the aunt with bad breathe, terrible lipstick and hugs everyone a little too hard?  Yeah, Aunt Betty definitely brings something different to the table but the family accepts her because well, she’s family and she belongs.  You get the idea. 

So when we talk about people with disabilities being integrated (among) or included (belonging) does it really matter?  YES!  Psychology Today writes in their post The Health Benefits of Finding Your Tribe (September 11, 2012), that “Not only is it human nature to crave intimacy and belonging, it’s also essential preventative medicine.” True inclusion increases health, self-worth, lifts depression and gives people a sense of community and protection.  So as you head out this March, be purposeful in the way you bring awareness.  Be sure to help Delaware County grow a culture of inclusion by making all people a part of a something bigger, a community that cares for one another.  Because in Delaware County, #AllMeansAll.