Acceptance and Inclusion: What Do These Words Mean, Really?
Guest post by Lauren Velez
About 4 months ago, I began volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit, assisting with multiple programs such as GiGiFIT Toddler, Open Play, and more. Each time I am there, I see perfect examples of inclusion.
Perhaps inclusivity can look different depending on the environment you are in, but one thing remains consistent at GiGi’s: no matter our differences, everyone is welcome and included, exactly as you are.
We hear the words ‘acceptance’ and ‘inclusion’ used a lot, especially when discussing people with disabilities, and especially during Down Syndrome Awareness/Acceptance Month. In honor of DSAM, we asked our community… How Do YOU Define Acceptance? Thank you to all who took the time to share what this concept means to them! Here are the responses from our survey:
“Understanding that we’re all different and we all have something worthy and special to offer”
“Acceptance means allowing people to be who they were born to be by supporting and celebrating them.”
“Celebrating our differences.”
“We are all beautiful, unique and beloved children of God with our own special gifts! ❤️”
“Treating everyone with love and respect.”
“It means opening your arms and hearts to children and adults with Down syndrome. It means including them in your life, your schools, your churches and your community. It means no barriers in your welcome. It means taking extra time to understand them. It means ensuring your love gives them warmth. It means praising their growth. It means holding them close if they are sad. It means accepting them as they are just as you accept other people as they are in your life. It means that your life will be enriched if you are fortunate to have a friend with Down Syndrome.”
Inclusivity goes hand-in-hand with acceptance. Every individual I interact with at GiGi’s has their own personality, story, identity, qualities, and skillset. This creates a beautifully diverse mosaic of beings, with each person not only accepted, but fully embraced as they are.
At GiGi’s I have witnessed true acceptance and inclusion in the way any adult receives an unexpected running-start hug from someone else’s exuberant child. I see inclusivity in the way everyone in the room cheers together during spontaneous #BestofAll moments. I see inclusivity when every single person who walks in the door is welcomed with open arms like they are already family.
At GiGi’s, I quickly became part of this culture because I couldn’t help but feel joy and belonging with each sweet moment, not only with my friends who have Down syndrome, but with their families as well. I was given the gift of total immersion in the programs and this experience allowed me to learn what inclusivity truly is first hand.
During this month, I have been reflecting on my new perspective on inclusivity and acceptance. With all the people I have met during my time at GiGi’s, I can confidently say this community has transformed the way I approach diverse groups. Inclusivity is more than just allowing anyone to share the space. It’s providing a warm welcome, seeing them exactly as they are, embracing all their parts, viewing them as a valuable member, and being willing to provide any support they need to fully participate and contribute to the whole.
If you are reading this and want to meet some incredible and inspiring individuals, I strongly encourage you to volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit! I feel deeply fulfilled every time I assist with a group or event. Even if you only have a couple hours to spare each month, you won’t regret spending them with this awesome community. Come be a piece of our mosaic here at GiGi’s!