The definition of Inclusivity is the fact of not excluding members or participants on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc. This is a broad field, and extremely complex
Some differences like race, gender and mobility impaired disabilities are more obvious than others, but there are also disabilities that affect our cognitive functioning and processing. These are not necessarily obvious to everyone, but when you start working with people who struggle with dyslexia, autism, dyspraxia, dysgraphia to name only a few it may well become very obvious.
It is important to create an inclusive environment so that people who are different are not excluded. A judgment based on exclusivity will more often than not exclude someone that could be crucial to a creative process and may make your product better. Inclusive design has a long way to go before it can embrace real inclusivity in terms of including a mix in products that would cater to accessibility (hearing, blind/colourblind/vision impairment, mobility/injury impairment, deaf/hearing loss, etc.), sexuality and gender. Creating environments sensitive to this should not just be the responsibility of those who are discriminated against because of an attitude of exclusivity. Already learning difficulties and other criteria are becoming more accepted and catered for in schools and the work place. We need to be proactive in building an environment that caters for inclusivity. This can only happen through education, tolerance and awareness.
As a film student, in order to help create awareness through creative projects, my end product needs to be suitable for the audience no matter what culture they are from. We see a creation of stereotypes out of Hollywood catering to the fears and judgments of the masses. When we see enough of this type of autosuggestion, its starts becoming a “truth“. Some examples;
- Africa is a bad place filled with poverty, crime and corruption.
- The Middle East is filled with terrorists threatening the very fibre of the West.
- Only pretty woman can take lead roles in movies.
- Blondes are usually dumb, and people with learning difficulties are stupid.
Movies, reality TV and fashion magazines to name a few are responsible for catering to people’s prejudices, which adds to the atmosphere of exclusivity. We need to change this context and it is our responsibility as students of this industry to be aware of this and to be part of the change towards inclusivity.
This link illustrates some of the six ridiculous stereotypes that movies can’t seem to move on from.
The introduction of Bollywood and Far East Marshall Arts movies, although heavily dependent on stereotypes within their own genres, are already responsible for alerting those of us from other cultures to other genres that are out there.
The film industry is changing. There are films being released with a mixed cast that don’t rely on stereotypes, and there are films that feature strong strong female characters in leading roles like Tomorrowland and Mad Max: Fury Road, and the Hunger Games series, to name a few.
Within the media world, film and television addresses issues of different social groups and how they are included, or how their exclusion can be dangerous. The movie Forrest Gump is a very good example of this, and tells the story of an autistic man with a below average IQ. The popularity and critical acclaim of movies like this that not only features someone like Forest Gump in the lead role, but also has a proactive, highly functioning supporting actor in Lieutenant Dan in a wheel chair goes a long way to subtly changing our perspectives on how we see people with disabilities. Films like Rain Man also help create awareness in people about the fact that we all have differences, and that some of them are more challenging than others. If we are able to tap into those differences in a constructive and inclusive manner the rewards may well be far greater than we could expect or hope for.
Many feature films and scripted television shows are tackling issues found in today’s society – depression, addiction, sexual orientation etc. This awareness forces us to face our own attitudes towards a marginalised community. Movies like this create awareness and make us think. Torch Song Trilogy for example forces us to face that sexual discrimination is out there, not just with straight audiences, but also within gay audiences where effeminate gays are discriminated against by their own. Movies like this are crossing many demographics that are appealing to a wide audience. Film and television has become an important gateway for giving a voice to people who don’t know how to find their own voice, and at the same time creating sensitivity and awareness.
Employers can also embrace and encourage an environment of inclusivity. An example of this can be found online of the dancing barista who works for Starbucks and who has autism. In order to help himself focus on the job at hand he dances his way through his workday. After a video of him dancing and making coffee went viral, Ellen DeGeneres met and introduced this inspirational individual and his amazing boss to the world. Rather than saying he is unemployable and not able to function properly in a working environment, someone has embraced those very differences and created a niche space for him. This will not only draw people to this Starbucks to meet the “dancing barista“, but in doing so help create an awareness in us all that differences are ok, and not a reason to exclude someone from the workplace. One hopes this will go a long way towards encouraging an employer to think creatively when next they employ someone, and how they can make these differences work for everyone.
This blog has particular importance to me for a number of reasons. I have LGBT friends, friends of different races and cultures, some who have been bullied because of their differences and sexual orientation, and a paraplegic athlete friend with severe mobility issues who has to tackle red tape to get the same privileges as able-bodied people. This friend I am proud to say has forged ahead and is doing fantastically and is hoping to be a part of the para-olympic team representing South Africa in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil at the next Olympic games.
Added to this I’ve encountered prejudices because of my own situation. I have a learning difficulty called Dyspraxia. I have been bullied and victimised by classmates who don’t understand why I am slower and require more time than they do to complete the exams. Some teachers told my parents I would never complete high school because I am not capable. I think they believed that were being honest and thus helpful. It just made me more determined, so maybe it served its purpose, but this should not be the case. My parents never gave up on me and always supported me and my dreams. This has given me insight and understanding from the inside into the struggles one deals with when fighting against exclusivity.
Empathy for what people with differences have to deal with is not enough. We need to be proactive and educate people. We need to use the stories that are out there and draw on them to create an environment of inclusivity. People should not be excluded from enjoying and appreciating your product. Whether you’re creating a movie, a video game, a painting, or an album, you should never prevent any social group from enjoying or appreciating your product. Not only is this bad design, it’s also unacceptable.