equality | Include.org

Shared Lives – Singing and Signing together

Mandy and Michelle are members of The Include Choir.

Mandy is Michelle’s Shared Lives carer. The Shared Lives scheme matches adults who need care with someone who can provide support. Family and community life are a shared experience for both.

Michelle and Mandy joined The Include Choir over two years ago. Before the pandemic.

Mandy says, “When we could return to choir in person earlier this year, I was unsure about how Michelle would react.

I told her just before we were to leave. She leapt from her seat shouting “choir!” She then sang the Include Choir welcome song at the top of her voice before rushing to get her coat and shoes.

She was beyond happy to return and so pleased to see everyone.

She loves to perform and being part of include provides her with a safe, friendly space to do this.

The use of inclusive communication, structure and positivity make include choir a place she can make sense of which in turn gives her confidence and comfort. 

Include has really helped Michelle and myself to remember to use our Makaton and props to communicate with each other. It has given her such a great outlet to perform and feel successful.

The structure of sessions and inclusive communication has definitely improved her listening skills too. 

Small charities like Include.org are the heart of the disabled community. They provide a positive, happy, inclusive place for people to be.

The work that Include does to promote rights, understanding and inclusion is something that is amazing to be a part of.

To see people’s smiles when they see the choir perform is so moving and making people with disabilities visible in such a positive and empowering way is just what society needs. “

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Include Choir Coordinator

Welcome to our World

For World Kindness Day 2021 (13th November) we’re doing 5 things!

1)   Thanking our amazingly kind volunteers and supporters.

2)  Giving away a FREE Easy Read resource that explains how to be a Kind (Inclusive) Communicator:

3)   Showcasing The Include Choir’s special song In My World, and telling the touching story behind it (below).

4)   Streaming songs with messages about Kind Communication at #KindFest2021 – the world’s largest online festival of kindness.

5)   Sharing the first of Include’s organisational values – decided through coproduction workshops earlier this year… Can you guess what it is?!

In My World…

From the depths of lockdown came a beautifully unifying and uplifting song. It will be showcased at KindFest2021 on World Kindness Day.

We spoke to the three main creators…

“I actually love the song. It makes me feel good and calm. I like singing it and it’s good when the choir sing it,” says Louise.

“My Mum taught me how to play piano and at college I had singing and piano lessons. I have done (Makaton) signing all my lifetime since nursery and school – it helped me lots with learning and communication”.

All of these skills come together when Louise helps The Include Choir.

The inspiration for her song started when the Makaton sign of the week word was Colours. At this time, Include was delivering many services online (not just singing) and offering self-care tips to help people feel okay during lockdown. Louise shared her top tip, which was that coloring helps her to calm. And she has a special book called Keep Calm and Color Unicorns!

But Louise’s all-time favorite phenomenon is the rainbow.

And this is at the heart of the song. She says; “I love colours – they make me feel good – all except black and grey – even though I’m wearing a black T-shirt today! Ha!”

Sue, Include’s resident accompanist (and Louise’s Mum) helped write the song and compose the music.

Sue says; “I asked Louise to think of beautiful things to do with colour. Her input is there throughout; sunsets over a calming sea and the hazy blue of the sky.”

Sue credits her then fiancé, (now husband) Paul, with one of the lyrics “the blushing pink of the roses” because he bought and named a rose for her “The blushing pink”. But says Sue; “Without Louise, there would probably be no song – she is the true inspiration.”

Sue is keen to point out that the song can still feel relevant to people with visual impairments “that’s what colour mean to me” can refer to how people imagine colour.

A stunning animated video featuring The Include Choir and many members of the community singing and signing the song was created by fabulous volunteer Xinning.

“I was living with my boyfriend in a flat in Manchester when I joined this project. Because of the lockdown, we spent all day in the living room working together. But I didn’t meet anyone or make any friends during the lockdown.

I sense the message from the song is that no matter how many difficulties we are facing, always remember to find the existence of beautiful things in our world. I really enjoy the song because gives me the power to get over a hard time and find people who are caring for each other.

I use the simplest way of making animation, which is to draw frame by frame on a computer I believe this is the strongest way to express emotion. I choose to use simple shapes to animate. It is concise and lets people easily understand the meaning which the song wants to convey.

Louise suggested a great idea which was to add butterflies in the animation. She also provided illustrations of butterflies from members of the choir.

I animated it in a rigging animation software.

It makes the video lively.

It feels great to hear people’s feedback on my animation. Sometimes I feel doubtful of my animation but once people told me that my animation is good, I feel everything is worth doing.”

In My World highlights the benefits of being willing to join other people “in their world”. That’s what we mean by Inclusive or Kind Communication. Being willing to adjust ourselves in order to properly connect with someone else.

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Include Choir Coordinator

What is Racism?

Our volunteers Hannah (below) and Sofia worked together to create an Easy Read resource about racism.

Earlier this month we were able to share this Easy Read resource about racism with John Barnes! “Wow!” says Hannah, “Who knew at the beginning of making this resource that John Barnes would be holding it?”

John Barnes is also keen to ensure that this important topic is made accessible to all. His new book The Uncomfortable Truth about Racism is available as an audio book here: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Uncomfortable-Truth-About-Racism-Audiobook/1472290410

Our own FREE resource about racism is also available here in audio format via the include.org soundcloud

We asked Hannah to share some more of her thoughts:

Why did you decide to create the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Easy Read Resource?

“George Floyd’s brutal murder last year led to this huge international conversation being had about race relations. As a result, lots of information and resources were shared in the mainstream media and online about the variety of ways people can get involved and engaged with the movement for racial equality. However…

…I had noticed this information was not being conveyed in an accessible format and with the assumption that everyone has pre-existing knowledge on the origins of the BLM movement.

Therefore, in line with our principles as inclusive communicators, we wanted to create a resource breaking down key concepts related to the BLM movement which everybody could understand.”

Why should people with communication needs have access to information about the Black Lives Matter movement and Black history in general?

“There are many parallels in the daily experiences of the Black community and people with communication disabilities.

These two groups face significant prejudice in today’s society, which has led to both groups facing similar educational, employment and mental health outcomes. We also know that a significant number of people are disabled and from the Black community.

For example, “In the year to March 2020, almost 4,200 people per 100,000 in the population of England used secondary mental health, learning disabilities and autism services and out of all 16 ethnic groups (excluding groups labelled ‘Other’), Black Caribbean people were most likely to use the services”.

(source: https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/health/mental-health/adults-using-nhs-funded-mental-health-and-learning-disability-services/latest)

It is important that people with communication needs can become more informed about their rights and the rights of others, and share their own experiences and insights.

They are part of the community and part of belonging is having ways to unite and engage with topics like Black Lives Matter.  

By providing access to alternative formats like easy read and audio information, we can empower people to be part of the BLM movement and work towards reversing these current outcomes.”

How we can improve and promote Diversity and Inclusion at Include.org?

“It is important that we listen to existing BAME members and give them the space and time to talk about their experiences of existing within the intersection of being a person of colour with a communication disability.

In addition, I think that it is important that when it comes to engaging in conversation with people of colour, Include.org does not assume that everybody shares a similar experience.

Listening to individual experiences is key. This is the same standard that is applied in terms of people with communication needs – don’t assume someone’s abilities – take the time to get to know them.

Overall, all Include.org members regardless of race and disability should be encouraged to be aware of the Equality Act 2010 which protects everyone and was designed to empower those most vulnerable and marginalised in society.”

Helpful Resources

Easy Read Equality Act: https://www.mencap.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-02/Equality%20Act%20-%20Easy%20Read.pdf

Black Lives Matter resources, including activists telling their stories: https://blacklivesmatter.com/resources/

An article on the experience of being black and having a learning disability: https://www.mencap.org.uk/blog/black-history-month-chriss-story

John Barnes’ book The Uncomfortable Truth about Racism is also available as an audio book here: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Uncomfortable-Truth-About-Racism-Audiobook/1472290410

And of course Hannah and Sofia’s Include Easy Read about Racism: https://include.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/What-is-Racism-Include.org-Easy-Read.pdf also available as audio here: on the include.org soundcloud

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Include Choir Coordinator
Skip to content