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Supported Employment

This is a great visual about inclusion. But it's wrong....

This is a great visual about inclusion. But it's wrong....

Written by Kevan McBeth, Chief Purpose Officer, Affective Consulting


I have come across this really great visual a few times over the last several months (most recently on the Saskatchewan Disability Strategy Facebook site) , and although it very beautifully demonstrates the difference between inclusion, exclusion, integration and segregation, there’s been something about it that bugs me.

The differnce between inclusion, exclusion, segregation and integration

After really thinking about it, I started to realized that there are a couple of things that could be changed/ edited to make this a better representation of what true inclusion is all about.

The green dots should be different.

I get it. the green dots are supposed to represent those who are “typical” - those of us who are able bodied, caucasian and without barriers. And that is fine- it’s a reality that we should acknowledge. But when we talk about true inclusion, we are talking about creating a culture that strives for equity and embraces, respects, accepts, and values difference.

And that isn’t just about the differences in the blue and red dots. That’s also about the green dots too- we are all unique individuals with a rich and wide level of diversity as well, so why shouldn’t this be acknowledged in the visual as well? In fact it’s a critical piece of the definition.

The red and blue dots need to be different too.

If we are using a people first philosiphy, and moving beyond the idea that you as an individual are your physical or cognitive ability, or the colour of your skin, or your sexual orientation is something that inclusion is all about. The colours are vital to the overall visual, but by just using colours, you are potentially continuing to reinforce the labelling of individuals and not taking into account who they are beyond the visual differences that you naturally identify when you see someone who isn’t just like you.

By changing the size of the dots, you are making a distinction that everyone is different, while at the same time connecting the different coloured dots to green coloured dots - afterall, we may look different, but we may also share experiences, religious beliefs, backgrounds, opinions and more. These parts of who we are make us uniquely us, but also give us the chance to connect with others through common connections.

The inclusion circle needs to “pop”!

My biggest issue with the diagram above is this - it just doesn’t represent the incredible impact that an inclusive culture truly is!

Inclusion isn’t just about bringing different people into the center and making their lives better- if it’s done properly, it actually makes everyone’s lives better. It creates a culture of understanding, empathy and belonging. It makes people more open and caring. It reinforces our natural instincts to be kinder to each other.

I am not an educator, and I know that inclusion has it’s supporters and detractors when it comes to classrooms. But consider this- outside of the obvious benefits for children with disabilities who have been given the opportunity to develop prosocial skills and be a part of their natural peer group, typical students in an inclusive environment are not adversley affected, but rather in general experience positive academic outcomes for students overall.

And when it comes to businesses developing a more inclusive environment, I think I will leave that to this amazing video of Mark Wafer, a Tim Horton’s owner who believes in the business case for inclusion to make that case for me.

My version of the inclusion graphic.

My thoughts and views are my own, so I encourage you to take this or leave it - or better yet, in the spirit of inclusion, send me a note and tell me how it could be better! I would love to generate greater discussion on inclusion, and if you have a suggestion for me on how this could be a better representation of such an important topic for us all, I would love to hear from you.

Isn't this better?

Scribblenauts and Supported Employment

Scribblenauts and Supported Employment

Written by Kevan McBeth, Founding Partner - Affective Consulting 


My 6 year-old son crawled up on my lap a few weeks ago and asked me to help him play this new game he’d found on the iPad, called Scribblenauts. For those of you who are in the same age bracket as I am, who grew up with dot matrix printers and Commodore 64’s (don’t judge!), the easiest way I can explain Scribblenauts is it’s an old-school text based adventure game (like Zork) on Steroids. Instead of typing in “Hit troll with axe”, now all you do is type “axe” into the field at the top of the Scribblenauts game, and an axe appears which you can arm your character with- so you can now watch him hit the troll with the axe instead of imagining it (How fun!).

The reason why my son came to me in the first place was that he needed me to help him with a scenario in the game. He had his character and a companion at the edge of a body of water that they needed to cross. In the water was a blood thirsty shark, patrolling the waters and seemingly removing any chance of the two characters safely crossing the channel by swimming. He needed an alternate way to get across the water, and thought I could help. I typed “bridge”. But the bridge was too short to fit across the body of water. I typed “boat”, but when we loaded the two characters on the boat, the boat sank from their weight. I typed in “snorkel” thinking that I could maybe try to masterfully steer the two characters to safety across the water with some fancy swimming and timing of the shark’s moves.

Let’s just say it didn’t go well.

Finally, my son said “Hey! I know! Dad- type in “Lightning”!! I looked at him strangely. Lightning?! Really?! How would lightning help us?? I reluctantly typed in lightning. Carter then placed his little finger on the lightning bolt and brought it down to the water and released. The lightning bolt electrified the water, killing the shark. He then instructed me to type in “scuba” as we did before, and he placed the scuba gear on his two characters. They swam leisurely across the water and onto the other shore.

Level cleared. Problem solved.

I sat there for a few minutes and marvelled at the genius and simplicity of my son’s solution. It was staring us right in the face the whole time, I just didn’t see it. Because I wasn’t being creative. I was thinking logically, but I didn’t explore the idea of doing things differently to remove the single barrier (the shark) from getting us to our goal on the other side of the water.

To me, this is the perfect analogy for supported employment. As Human Resource professionals, managers and business owners, we get caught up in trying to make our systems and approaches to employment fit the situation of employing an individual who may need job customization or natural supports to be a part of the workplace. If the bridge is too short, or the boat can’t hold us all, we stay stuck on the shore. Issues like “there needs to be enough work to be full time”, “they need to meet the full qualifications of a position to work”, “our workplace is too small to have a supported employee” or “the work we could find for someone isn’t enough to be meaningful” are all short-bridge solutions we try to apply to the situation. Because those are all we tend to know.

Supported employment isn’t about trying to find work for an employee with a disability, its more about our inability to think creatively about what meaningful work really is.

But if we aren’t able to think outside the box, and allow ourselves to see the creative solutions, we miss an opportunity that could lead to developing a meaningful work opportunity for an employee with a disability. Someone who may love to come to work for you for 4 hours a week. Someone who could take that little extra bit of work off the plates of your employees, allowing them to focus on their core work responsibilities and duties. Someone who could bring energy and passion to your workplace on a daily or weekly basis.