Disability Awareness: How we can integrate people living with disabilities into our societies

It is estimated that one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. In South Africa, 3 December also marks the beginning of the Disability Awareness Month.

Here are a few  ways we can continue to make our world more accepting of people with disabilities.

The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, aims to promote:

  • An understanding of disability issues
  • The rights of persons with disabilities
  • Gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.

In South Africa, 3 December also marks the beginning of the Disability Awareness Month.

The day provides an opportunity to mobilize action to achieve the goal of full and equal enjoyment of human rights and participation in society by persons with disabilities, established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982.

The estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation. The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.

Persons with disabilities must be able to fulfill their role in society and participate on an equal basis with others. It is important to focus on the ability and not on the disability of an individual. Often, the societal image of persons with disabilities is impacted by attitudes based on stigma and discrimination, as well as archaic ideas about disability and persons with disabilities that are often the greatest barrier to their full and equal participation in society and development on an equal basis with others. It is important to note that disability is part of the human condition and that all of us either are or will become disabled to one degree or another during the course of our lives.

By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. This enhances their own capacities and supports them in setting their own priorities. Empowerment involves investing in people – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.

Disabled or able-bodied, we all have the power and responsibility to make society more inclusive for everyone. From lived experiences to listening to the disability community, here are 10 ways we can continue to make our world more accepting of people with disabilities.

  1. View the Disability Community as a Valuable Consumer

It’s still progressive to see the disability community as a targeted audience and consumer. We’re the biggest minority population in the world, yet the most under-represented when it comes to marketing products, as we’re the last to be thought of. While part of this stems from the fact that there is a great deal of diversity within the disability community, those consumer segments (and their families) still have significant purchasing power. We’re slowly seeing models with disabilities incorporated in fashion and marketing commercials, but this needs to become the norm, and not seen as future-forward thinking.

  1. Employ People with Disabilities- They are Ambitious and Want to Work

According to NPR, “fewer than 1 in 5 disabled adults are employed. Disabled workers earn about R12 000 less a year than non-disabled workers, according to Census data on median earnings. That gap was under R8300 in the early 1990s.” The disability community is still discriminated against at work from being refused a job or denied a final interview. But when it comes down to it, employers need to see a person, including his/her disability, as an asset and not a potential liability.

  1. Promote Social Inclusion in Schools

Our overall cultural consciousness on how we treat and interact with disability needs to change, beginning in elementary schools. We need to celebrate our peers for their differences. If this is taught at a young age, less discrimination and more social inclusion will occur. Having kids with and without disabilities learning side-by-side helps everybody appreciate the talents and gifts all kids bring with them. As a society, we have the responsibility to promote the inclusion of our differences.

  1. Realize that People with Disabilities are Humans too

It’s interesting how we can see a person in one dimension and forget that he/she is a human being, intricate with multiple angles. When we see a person outside of their element, we tend to forget that their life is a culmination of different sides and not just how we see them in an isolated environment. Sometimes people can forget that a person with a disability is first and foremost a human being with desires, talents, skills, heartache, and loss, just like everyone else. At the basis of every person are the similarities we all share for being human, and that includes people with disabilities.

Source: United Nations Enable

https://www.oneyoungworld.com/blog/10-ways-make-society-more-inclusive-people-disabilities

https://www.gov.za/speeches/international-day-persons-disabilities-2017-23-nov-2016-134