Over the weekend it was International Day of Persons with Disability! Set up by the United Nations, the International Day of Persons with Disability aims to raise awareness on issues facing disabled people. The hope is that this day will improve society’s perception & interaction with disabled people, as well as supporting our rights.
Each year, the UN come up with a theme for their International Day of Persons with Disability, to kick start the conversation. This year’s theme is ‘Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want’. I thought I would use this opportunity to talk about 17 things I’d like to see in the future, as a disabled person. Here, I’m giving examples from my own experiences as a part time wheelchair user & crutches user.
1. I’d like to see better accessibility as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability
There have been some great improvements in accessibility, but they often don’t go far enough. For example, the only entrance to my hairdressers requires being able to got up a step & push a very heavy door. I have to sit outside & phone my hairdressers for someone to come, open the door & help me in. Why do I go back? Their cuts are amazing! Are people who can’t get up a step missing out? Definitely.
Accessibility isn’t solely the responsibility of those with public buildings though. It’s everyone’s. You’d be shocked & surprised by the number of people who park over drop curbs or up on the pavement, not leaving enough room for a wheelchair (or buggy) to get passed. It is not uncommon for these instances to occur on double yellow lines too, so not only are they inaccessible, they’re also illegal! Even my local council have been guilty of this.
I’d like to see everyone being considerate about how they act so as to not put a barrier in the way of a disabled person.
2. I’d like to see a greater understanding that not all disabilities are visible as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability
I’ve been both visible & invisible, so I feel like I’m in a good position to talk about both. While people with a visible disability often find that people go out of their way to help (more below), someone with an invisible disability often finds that it’s really hard to get help. You ask for a seat on public transport & most of the time you’ll either be ignored, given a disapproving look or be questioned as to why you feel you’re entitled to it. More often than not, you won’t get the seat you need.
3. I’d like to see people thinking about the impact their questions have on those with a disability as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
This is an issue mostly faced by those with a visible disability, so is very important to discuss on International Day of Persons with Disability. Strangers come up & ask things like “what happened to you?” or make comments such as “You’re too young for a mobility scooter” or “Well, at least you have a pretty face!” I’d really like people to understand that if you don’t know a person’s name, you don’t have the right to interrupt their day to ask them such personal questions. I talk more about this in my Why is it Socially Acceptable To Ask Inappropriate Disability Questions? post.
4. I would like to see a greater access to suitable employment for people with disabilities as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
Appropriate opportunities are lacking, which I think is partly because many employers don’t know how best to support someone with a disability, or are nervous about the negative implications disability can bring. But this fails to consider the unique perspectives disabled people have. This could be a massive positive to companies.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for disabled people who work to not receive the support they need & face discrimination. I’ve written a Disability Discrimination post about my experience of this.
5. I would like people to view mobility aids as our freedom, not a cage that keeps us locked up as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
The number of people who think that my wheelchair is a bad thing astonishes me. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house! Now that would be a bad thing.
6. I would like the pity to end as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
Everyone has difficulties in their lives, it’s just that you can see the difficulties of those with a visible disability. I understand that pity is partly people feeling grateful that they aren’t in the other person’s situation but really, is using a wheelchair, crutches a guide dog or anything else so bad?
7. I would like to see something put in place to protect disabled people from devotees as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
What’s a devotee you ask? A devotee is someone who finds the disabled body attractive. But it doesn’t just end there, they get off on the struggles of disabled people. I’ve been contacted by one such person. He found a photo of me sitting in my wheelchair on Instagram, followed it to my blog & got my Snapchat code. He then contacted me on Snapchat, asking me to send him pictures of me in my wheelchair. Imaging if that were to happen to a a young twenty-something? Or someone who was easily flattered & might be coerced into doing something they aren’t comfortable with. Disabled people are a vulnerable group & I’d like to see that reflected in protection against devotees.
8. I’d like to see a fair benefit system for people with disabilities as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
I applied for Personal Independence Payment in January. The assessor conveniently missed out key information about how often I could do things & was inaccurate with basic details like diagnosis dates. So instead of having the money to buy the aids & adaptations I need to help me in every day life, I am in a very stressful situation where I have to fight for what I am entitled to. I still don’t have a tribunal date, so there is no end in sight. I’ve spoken to many people who have had similar experiences when applying to claim disability benefits.
9. I would like there to be correct support for people to get the aids that they need as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
I’ve been very lucky that the NHS have funded my wheelchair. I have friends who have had to self fund to get the right piece of equipment. However, although my wheelchair was funded, the knowledge of the service was poor & I had to guide them in the right direction to get the best wheelchair for me. You can read more about this in my Wheelchair Services Update post.
10. I would like to see a world where disabled people are not seen as selfish for wanting a family as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
A couple of friends have been told by doctors that they are selfish for wanting children. This is not ok. I have a few friends who are disabled & have children. each one of them is an exceptional parent & their kids are lovely.
11. I would like to see better media representation for disabled people as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
It is important to have disabled characters played by disabled people. You can’t truly understand how it feels to be a person with a disability unless you’ve lived it. I would like to see the narratives of such characters being about more than their disability & the use of disabled characters as plot devices of other characters to feel better about themselves.
12. I would like to see disabled people’s achievements as commonplace as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
While it’s great to see disabled people doing great things & getting recognition for them, I’d love to see the achievements of disabled people becoming so commonplace that they no longer make media headlines in the way that they currently do.
13. I would like to see more accessible housing, available to those who need it as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
Luckily, we haven’t needed to look into wheelchair accessible housing at this point. But I have friends who have & the process has not been an easy one. This needs to change.
14. I would like to see more resources for people with disabilities to help them live independently as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
From learning wheelchair skills to using public transport, there are lots to discover & learn. So far, I’ve learnt everything from my own experiences, trial & error & from friends. Not everyone is going to be able to learn themselves or have friends to ask. These people will be less independent as a result. I know there’s still so much more I have to learn.
15. I would like to see more support for carers as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
Carers do a fantastic job, but often seem to be left to figure things out for themselves. This can result in them missing out on support they are entitled to, like respite days because they don’t know that these are an option for them. This then has a negative impact on the person with a disability for whom they care.
16. I would like to see a better understanding of variable disabilities as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
It isn’t a shocking thing to see a wheelchair user stand up. If you see someone using a wheelchair one day & walking normally another, it does not mean that they are faking. This judgment in not ok & not helpful. Particularly when people then feel it’s ok to make nasty comments to the person with a disability. I have friends who won’t stand up from their wheelchairs or move their legs for fear of comments from strangers. Even though not moving will mean that they are in more pain.
17. I would like to see a better understanding of how disabling mental health conditions can be as a result of International Day of Persons with Disability.
It seems like a lot of the time, mental health conditions are ignored, swept under the carpet or seen as a laughing matter. This needs to stop.
International Day of Persons with Disability is not just for thinking about disability, it’s about action. So what am I doing to change perceptions & create the future I want to see? I’m using my blog as a platform to discuss issues surrounding disability, to raise awareness for those who don’t have experience of disability & to show those who do that they aren’t alone. I really hope that my platform is able to help make a difference to the way that people with disabilities are treated within society.
What would you like to see the future look like for the lives of disabled persons? How can you help make these a reality?
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