What does inclusion look like?



Much is fresh and thriving with the arrival of spring.

If only the concept of inclusion could be so easily renewed.

I say this as I am both shocked and horrified at the lack of inclusion that I recently learned of on behalf of UPMC.

In March the UPMC Williamsport Campus hosted an emergency scenario which involved a gunman in the hospital. The goal of this emergency drill is to assure that hospital staff, emergency responders, and citizens are better prepared in the event of an actual emergency.

I spoke with the Emergency Preparedness Manager to get some details on the event.

I was told the event required 8 months of planning and involved 500 participants. Local, state and federal agencies participated in addition to the hospital staff. The ADA estimates that 20% of the U.S. population are people with disabilities.

Hmmm … so the “realistic” drill involved 100 participants that have a disability, right?

Wrong. I asked how many of the participants were people with a disability.

I was told no one with a disability participated in the drill. After picking my jaw off the desk I had to ask why not one person with a disability was included. It was explained that this drill involved broken glass and other potentially dangerous scenarios.

In a nutshell, UPMC excluded 20% of the community’s population from their “realistic” drill. People with disabilities are not delicate, fragile or in need of “protection” from the same risk that a person without a disability may encounter.

The horrific wildfires in California, specifically the Camp Fire in November and December of last year, reinforce the need for all persons to be involved in disaster planning.

Eighty-one people died in the Camp Fire.

Sixty of those that lost their lives were people that had a disability.

This July marks the 29th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. Twenty nine and people with a disability are still not recognized as equal members of the community by one of the largest health providers in the state.

More troubling is the fact that UPMC is one of three health insurance providers contracted with the state to provide medical insurance to people with disabilities enrolled in waiver services.

(Karen Koch is STSS service provider for the Center for Independent Living North Central Pennsylvania in Williamsport.)