Working in the community sector allows us all to see every-day life from a different perspective. We have the privilege to observe how we all go about our day-to-day lives and how we make it work for our own needs.
For other people though, this understanding doesn’t always come easily. They may not have the opportunity to really see what goes into a day out for a person with a disability, or even what a regular day at home looks like.
So, what does it actually mean to be a person with a disability? It obviously differs for each individual but we can think about a few main considerations…
Firstly, let’s think about the social model of disability and how attitudes and expectations of society can actually disable people. I heard a story some time ago about a person who was recovering from a significant injury who was re-learning how to speak. She went to a café and ordered a coffee. The person waiting in line behind her, obviously aggrieved by having to wait those few moments for her to construct her sentence, leaned in close to her ear and said ‘People like you should just stay at home.’
While you come to terms with that comment, think about the simple act of communicating. Or not so simple for some. The inability to communicate your basic wants and needs can be disabling, frustrating, distressing, and a lot more.
Think about structures such as buildings without ramps - schools with multiple flights of stairs to access classrooms, for example. I’ve always thought children with a disability were entitled to an education too. Why make it so hard?
In terms of the broader environment and accessibility, have you ever been to a major event and tried to find a toilet? And then had to wait in a long line to use it? We can all appreciate how unpleasant this experience is, but what would it be like for a person who needs an accessible toilet. You check the venue map. ‘Oh look, there’s one toilet waaaay over there in the far corner of the venue’.
Stereotypes and attitudes are also detrimental to inclusion. The idea that a person can’t do something because they have a disability is entirely limiting, even if the disability itself is not.
Consider the language we use. Even using simple and innocuous terms may be disabling, such as, a person ‘suffers’ from a disability instead of a person ‘has’ a disability. A simple change can have a huge impact on the meaning of a phrase.
If you or your staff would like to learn more about this and gain some tips for inclusion and interaction with people with a disability, why not call us about our Disability Inclusion workshop.