“We are more than our disability”
We all want to be accepted, to belong and to know we are valued. International Day of People with Disability (Saturday 3 December) reminds us of the benefits of bringing down barriers that stop people with a disability from being included fully in everyday community life.
We asked people with a disability about their lives, their loves and their dreams (see video). Their answers may surprise you. Their disability does not define them.
We can all do our bit to create a more inclusive Australia. This International Day of People with a Disability let’s all take the opportunity to:
- See beyond people’s abilities and see the person they are.
- Focus on our similarities, not our differences.
- Each be responsible for our part in creating an inclusive society, where everyone is valued.
Why does inclusion matter?
People with a disability, and those who love and care for them, want to be welcomed and included in all facets of society.
Think on this – what if your life changed and you acquired a disability? What would you want? There are a number of barriers that people with a disability face each day. Not being able to access places, transport barriers, unwelcome and awkward attitudes. These can stop all of us from contributing as full members of an inclusive and accepting society.
Building a world in which we all look for ways to enable everyone to belong begins with us. There’s a lot each of us can do to bring down the barriers – by learning more about disability, changing our attitudes and behaviours, and by taking small but significant steps every day to work with all people to ensure they know they genuinely belong.
Can you make a difference?
Awkward is so yesterday
For people who don’t live with disability, meeting or being in the company of someone who does can be an awkward experience. Many people wonder how much support they can offer a person in a wheelchair without offending them.
People with disability don’t want to be treated specially or differently from others. Like you, they want to be shown courtesy and respect, not judged or patronised. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have, on occasions, specific needs that should be responded to.
If you think people with a disability might like your assistance, ask them. Then listen carefully to what they say.
What can I do?
- Listening attentively when talking with people who have difficulty speaking. Wait for them to finish and never pretend to understand. Read our blog on improving your communication with people with a disability.
- Avoiding negative labels and language around disability – words like ‘crazy’ and ‘retarded’ are hurtful and unnecessary.
- Taking the time to learn about disability and share your understanding with others, especially if you hear something that is untrue.
- Trying to be sensitive to the needs of others. If someone makes a request or acts in a way that seems strange to you, consider the fact that it could be disability-related and deserving of understanding rather than judgment.
- Giving people enough time to understand or saying it in another way.
- Focusing attention on the person, not anyone offering them support or assistance.
- Identifying yourself and others when you meet with someone with a disability – the same courtesies apply.
- Focus on your similarities, rather than your differences. You might find you share the same interests.
More than two million Australians live with a disability, either physical or neurological. That’s one in every five of us.
Anyone can experience serious disability – a condition that restricts our mental, sensory or mobility functions. You can be born with a disability or acquire it – for example through a car accident or work injury. Disability can be permanent or temporary.
An inclusive society benefits all of us.
To find out more about Endeavour Foundation, and begin discovering all that people with an intellectual disability are and can be, visit www.endeavour.com.au.