I’ll forgive you if you weren’t aware that there was such a thing as International Day of People With Disabilities. I wasn’t either before some research. It is an initiative set up by the UN in 1992 to promote understanding of disability issues and to raise support for those with disabilities to enable them to participate equally in society.
It is held yearly on December 3rd and the theme for this year is “Inclusion is for everybody”. The day is recognised at the UN headquarters in New York with organisations and groups around the world encouraged to hold their own events. I love the idea of social equality but think in reality we have a long way to go. Raising awareness is one thing but raising understanding and empathy is quite another and this is where I think the focus should be.
So what do I as a person with disability think the International Day of People With Disabilities should include? I don’t think any one person can understand all the challenges people with differing disabilities face and I certainly can’t speak for everyone. I do however think that we all need to think a bit more about other people and try not to be entirely caught up in our own worlds. We have all been guilty of unknowingly causing issues for others by our actions so here are some things to consider in our everyday lives that might have an impact on people with disabilities.
● Viewing things from the perspective of the person with a disability would help us all to see how our actions can impede others. It could also help us to be less irritated or frustrated when we understand the challenges the other person is facing.
● Experiences that give an insight into the life of someone with a disability can really boost understanding. For example the MSunderstood cafe gives people the opportunity to view the world from the perspective of someone living with MS. I’ll be sending my husband when it comes back to Dublin!
● In a similar way, I know of a charity for the visually impaired that requires employees to spend time wearing glasses that distort vision and use a wheelchair so they understand the difficulties people they work with may have.
● I taught computing to a lady with hearing difficulties. She had a sign language interpreter who enabled her to be an equal participant in the class. I learnt to address my comments to her and not her interpreter, just as I would with any other member of the class.
● Think before you park your car! Parking on pavements or up on the kerb leaves no safe route for people in wheelchairs, while parking in disabled bays when you don’t need to means a person with a disability can’t use the facility.
● Don’t get me started on the pavements in Dublin! They are a hazard to everyone but in particular those with mobility issues. Try not to add to the problem by leaving obstructions like bins on the path.
Disabilities aren’t always visible. You don’t know what someone else is coping with just by looking at them. They could be living with chronic pain but look fine. Try not to judge what you don’t know.
Check out Grace’s blog, www.mycrazymslife.com for her perspective on living with multiple sclerosis.
Join in the activities of the UN International Day of People With Disabilities click here