Last week, a photo went viral of Bo Paske, a child with autism, eating lunch with Florida State University football player Travis Rudolph at his middle school in Tennessee. This week, the story continues – Bo had the opportunity to spend the day with the Florida State team, meet coach Jimbo Fisher, eat dinner with the team and enjoy the Seminoles’ opening win over Ole Miss. Paske wore a custom jersey with his name emblazoned on the back – a gift from Rudolph.
Welcome to the family, Bo! 👋
Bo met Coach Fisher and ate dinner with the team. pic.twitter.com/G5wB6Uv5eP
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) September 8, 2016
The event has given rise to much conversation in the disability community surrounding how the media portray individuals with disabilities. Rudolph’s act of kindness is unquestionably a model for us to follow – but it begs the question: what concrete steps can we take to follow it, addressing the social isolation of individuals with disabilities?
A recent CNN article highlights the steps that we can take – as a society, not just as individuals – to help address exclusion when it comes to individuals with disabilities. While stories about ‘random acts of kindness’ are wonderful, they take place in a larger context. Developing social inclusion policies in our schools, recreational practices and media practices is the first step to making sure that we can follow Rudolph’s example in both the short- and long-term. The narrative surrounding disabilities and inclusion in the media can send many different messages, but we can appreciate inclusion role models like Travis Rudolph and start taking steps to follow his example.
There are many ways we can – as both individuals and a society – be more inclusive. To read up on some recent role models, examples, and critiques of inclusion practices in the news and media, take a look at the following articles:
- Integrated Co-Teaching: A Model for Schools
- Developmental Disability: Overcoming Barrier of Perception
- Disability Mentoring in Employment
- Inclusivity in the Media: Disability Portrayals
For some suggestions on being more inclusive in day-to-day life, check out this short inclusivity checklist for things you can do as an individual.