Developing Professionals Standards of Inclusion for Community Settings

February 3, 2021

Image of 2 people wearing masks standing next to Santa and elf in masks
Image of 2 people wearing masks standing next to Santa and elf in masks

At the Cincinnati Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND) program, one of our research projects involves creating a comprehensive set of standards for inclusion that we can use to help public venues become more inclusive. Although public venues are required to meet accessibility standards under the ADA, many individuals and families with disabilities still do not have true access to inclusion.

When asking the LEND trainees at Cincinnati Children's, "What is your idea of inclusion?" responses included, "belonging," "bridging people together," and "feeling valued." In order to make these values a reality in the Cincinnati community, our team reviewed research on standards to accessibility and inclusion and reviewed various methods for presenting this information to businesses. From there, we worked as an interdisciplinary team to develop standards for inclusion in the area of policy, physical accessibility, sensory accessibility, and communication. Going forward, we plan to meet with community partners to gather feedback on our standards for inclusion and make improvements.

Through this work, we are passionate about meeting public venues and other companies where they are and working in collaboration with them to create the most inclusive environments possible. Many companies are incredibly passionate about this work as well, and we are excited to work together with them on a shared vision of inclusive environments for all individuals with disabilities.

As part of this work, in December, our Cincinnati Children's Hospital LEND program partnered with the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden (CZBG) for the second consecutive year to put on a Sensory-Friendly Santa event. The event included sensory friendly materials such as a visual schedule and a Santa who was trained to work with children with developmental disabilities. Additionally, families were able to come at a scheduled time to avoid any waiting period. Dr. Jen Smith, Director of the Cincinnati LEND program, served as the CZBG's primary consultant for the event and LEND trainees signed up to volunteer. As LEND trainees volunteering at the event, we were able to see true inclusion in action. We hope that our work going forward can contribute to many more meaningful events such as this one throughout our community.