International Day of Persons With Disabilities
December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It's a day to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities and to raise awareness about their rights.
I knew that I wanted to blog about this in some way today, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it last night, and kept coming back to what Michael Bloomberg saying that having making all the cabs in New York accessible wasn't necessarily what people with disabilities wanted.
What Do People With Disabilities Want?
I'm not a scholar in the field, but I've worked with people with disabilities for over fifteen years, and I've been living with my own disabilities for over a decade. I think that our needs are fairly simple.
- Access to Buildings When we're cut off from buildings and from areas in buildings, we're cut off from experiences and from participating fully in the community. We don't have choices and opportunities that everyone else has.
- Access to Resources The current struggles to make web pages more accessible, to make menus easier to read, to make the justice system more navigable, etcetera, seem like overkill to some people without disabilities. But when you can't see a computer webpage because you're red-green colour-blind, or you can't read a menu because the print is too small, or you can't don't understand what your public defender is saying to you because you've got an intellectual disability, you're at a distinct disadvantage because of your disability.
- Respect for Rights and and Knowledge of Responsibilities People with disabilities need to live in communities where, like everyone else, they have rights and responsibilities. People with disabilities, adults and children, are at a much greater risk for bullying or assault, sometimes by people are supposed to be taking care of them (paid and unpaid). Abuse can come in all forms (verbal, sexual, financial, violation of privacy, theft). Other rights that get disrespected are as follows: the right for a person to make their own decisions about their life, to be in relationships, to try new things, and to make health and/or money decisions. People with disabilities deserve to have rights abuse allegations take seriously, and need to understand that they have the responsibility to behave in ways that respect others' rights. Failure to do so will result in consequences for them, just as it would for people without disabilities.
- Opportunities to be a Part of the Community Everyone has ways that they can contribute. Community members need to be open to having all sorts of people as volunteers and employees in the community and makes everyone feel welcome at community events.
- People-Centred Supports for Assistance When Necessary Not everyone needs help all the time, but sometimes something comes up with which people need assistance. It's always nice to know that someone will be there if you need, whether it's a paid or non-paid support.
- Income Support for Those that Can't Work That Actually Reflects the Current Cost of Living The amount that individuals receive on the Ontario Disability Support Program leaves them at a poverty level.
Right now, setting up frameworks within communities where we can ensure that these five things are adequately addressed costs is taking a lot more time than it should. I believe it's at least partly because educating governments about the importance of getting funding to help address these issues is taking a long time. It's simply not high-priority.
And I think that's partly because you can't appreciate how vital these issues are until you've lived them. I know from experience that it's difficult to realize how frustrating it is not to be able to get into a favourite restaurant in a wheelchair until you're in that position.
I didn't know until a couple of days ago that International Day of Persons with Disabilities existed, and I hope it will bring some much-needed awareness to what still needs to be done.
On the lighter side, here are some people with disabilities whose accomplishments we really need to celebrate on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities:
- Rick Hansen
- Christopher Reeve
- Albert Einstein
- Terry Fox
- Stephen Hawking
- Michael J. Fox
- Helen Keller
- Ludwig Van Beethoven
- Thomas Edison
- Charles Darwin
More about the International Day of Persons with Disabilities: