mainstreaming is limited to putting a person with a disability next to typical people, in hope that each will adapt to and learn about the other. Inclusion argues that the whole of society, its physical accessibility, and its social attitudes should exist with universal design in mind, thus ending physical marginalization by ending the idea that a body that is different is incapable of self-management.
Although the concept of inclusion began as a way to ensure that disabled children were educated at the same school they would have attended if not disabled, inclusion today is considered an all-encompassing practice of ensuring that people of differing abilities belong, are engaged, and are connected to the goals and objectives of the whole wider society.
This attitude is quite divergent from the prevailing attitude in most countries. Inclusion's opposite tends to be an attitude or undercurrent of pity and/or sorrow among the population of people without disabilities towards people with disabilities, and, among the medical community, an attitude of over-medicalization (see Medical model of disability) — focusing constantly on the physical and/or mental therapies, medications, surgeries and assistive devices that might help to "normalize" the disabled person as much as possible to their surrounding environment, thus making such a person's life in the "normal world" that much more bearable. The attitude of inclusion, which has a lot in common with the social model of disability, alleges that this entire approach is wrong and that those who have physical, sensory and/or intellectual impairments are automatically put on a much more effective and fulfilling road to full participation in society if they are, instead, looked at and valued by society from the outset as totally "normal" people who just happen to have these "extra differences."
The late Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden, speaking at the Stanford University Law School in the 1970s, summed up the divergence between Swedish attitudes towards people with disabilities and the prevailing attitude in the United States: the latter, he said, regard the able-bodied and the disabled as effectively two separate species; the former, as humans in different life stages wherein, just as all babies are cared for by parents, sick people by the well; elderly people by those younger and healthier. Able-bodied people are able to help those who need it, without pity, because they know their turn at not being able-bodied will come. Palme maintained that if it cost the country $US 40,000 per year to enable a person with a disability to work at a job that paid $40,000, the society gained a net benefit, because the society benefited by allowing this worker to participate cooperatively, rather than to be a drain on other people's time and money.
The prevailing pity-based attitude, as well as the physical inaccessibility, tends to be the case regardless of a country's industrialization; e.g., in the United States as in Thailand there remains more in common attitudinally with pity than with inclusion. However, the reasons for this phenomenon being more the case in the United States than in similarly industrialized countries such as Canada and much of Western Europe are not entirely clear. Some say that the older architecture of the United States' more prominent cities makes structural adjustment for disabled people costly and supposedly impractical, leading indirectly to a high measure of hostility towards disabled people lest they end up feeling entitled to receive such adjustments unquestionably. Others tend to blame the attitude of Social Darwinism more generally, accusing it of corrupting the attitude of "normal" able-bodied people in the United States towards disabled people in essentially all areas — often to the point that it prevents that country's culture from readily accepting disabled people as totally full and equal members of society in aspects and venues that are not directly legality or law-related, e.g. theater, film, dance, and sexuality. (See also the article Ableism.)
Like the social movements of feminism, anti-racism and gay rights before it, inclusion is often derided by critics from the right as naïvité, and by critics from the left as identity politics. As it looks less towards overcoming and achieving and more towards being and existing in the moment, inclusion by very its nature forces others in the world to possibly begin to actually accept bodily forms and processes they may not be immediately comfortable with.
In the United States, a movement toward inclusion is most noticeably taking shape in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area.cArts events such as the DisThis! Film Series, AXIS Dance Company, dance performance by Lisa Bufano through Heidi Latsky, Theater Breaking Through Barriers, Visible Theater and Nicu's Spoon are all part of this emerging phenomenon, helped along to a large degree by Lawrence Carter-Long, a nationally-acknowledged U.S. advocate and orator in the disability rights field with spastic diplegia.