At first sight it might appear out of place to have an article on inclusion in a magazine concerning business. But inclusion is the business of us all. With increasing prominence being given to inclusion in public statements, Macau putatively promotes inclusion, but how far this extends beyond rhetoric is an open question.
Opinion | Keith Morrison – Author and educationist
At first sight it might appear out of place to have an article on inclusion in a magazine concerning business. But inclusion is the business of us all. With increasing prominence being given to inclusion in public statements, Macau putatively promotes inclusion, but how far this extends beyond rhetoric is an open question. Whilst NGOs, charitable organizations and associations focus on inclusion in Macau, in many respects citizens of Macau who have challenges, special needs and disabilities are an almost invisible minority, exacerbated for those whose disabilities are not immediately observable. It is almost impossible for wheelchair users to get around Macau’s streets, so, unsurprisingly, one scarcely sees them outside, and those with other challenges are sequestered and marginalised.
Macau’s government provides support for those with disabilities, and organizations, charities and associations in Macau take a leading role in promoting inclusion. Ask yourself ‘who speaks for those with disabilities and special needs in Macau?’ How and where is advocacy practised and heeded in Macau? How many companies and businesses employ those with special needs and provide for employees and their customers who have disabilities. What percentage of a company’s workforce has special needs and disabilities? How many students with disabilities are in mainstream education in Macau, in schools and tertiary education?
I was so happy to receive a message recently from a Master’s graduate in Macau who wrote this: “I’m the first one visually impaired person finishing the graduate school in Macau and this is a very unforgettable journey in my life”. What a shining example to us all. But why is this so unusual in Macau, when it is commonplace in other parts of the world?
It is rare and long overdue in Macau to celebrate those with disabilities and challenges, both visible and unseen, who so often go unnoticed, unremarked, under-represented and unvoiced in society. It’s easy for the able-bodied to overlook their remarkable examples of courage, optimism, determination and ‘zest for living’ from which we can all learn. In early June these admirable qualities came alive and were celebrated in the Asia Pacific Accessible Art Festival, with participants coming from 18 countries and territories in the Asia Pacific region to join 19 local rehabilitation groups from Macau.
The event celebrated inclusion and accessibility, and deservedly so. People with special needs and disabilities enrich and impress us all by their perseverance, commitment, friendliness, dignity and contribution to our community. They are the leavening in our daily lives; they make us better people.
The Asia Pacific Accessible Art Festival was a breath of fresh air. It was an inspired decision to bring people together, not to talk about routine matters so often found in Macau – business, trade, money, commodities, gaming, showcasing the latest gadget – but to share the arts in workshops, dance, exhibitions, conversations, painting, modelling, music and a host of activities in which participants came together in a spirit of friendship and involvement. It was a genuine, authentic, heartwarming, uplifting, life affirming occasion, with a huge sense of enjoyment, fun and positivity. At the opening ceremony one speaker commented that arts redeem humanity and that, in an inclusive society, it is essential to look beyond the material and the ephemeral and into the arts: what makes us human, what helps us to understand why we are here, what makes life worth living, and what touches us, often beyond words. That’s the arts, and they put discourses of materialism into the shade.
The closing ceremony was a delight; happiness everywhere, with participants bubbling with excitement and enjoyment: sometimes noisy, sometimes quiet; enthusiastic speakers and international groups; lots of laughter; and a moment to touch the hardest of hearts when the entire group – hundreds of people – joined together in singing about dignity for all.
Arts, accessibility, and a festival were here all in one; a powerful trinity. That was really something to celebrate and welcome, and it sent a strong signal that, beyond the rhetoric of inclusion, practical action should be the order of the day, with governments, NGOs, charitable organizations, higher education institutions, schools, associations and businesses being in the vanguard of operations here and really taking to heart the business of inclusion.