Watching a clip of Prince Henry’s (sorry – I hate it when we are forced to call members of the Royal Family by their nicknames as if we are their intimate friends) opening speech for the Invictus Games got me thinking.
There is a very strange attitude towards people with disabilities and injuries.
I am not even talking about the “political” debate surrounding how much we should be prepared to spend on caring for those people.
What I am talking about is the skewed discussion we are subjected to in society as a whole.
On the one hand, Para-athletes and the competitors in the Invictus Games are held up as beacons of what you can do in spite of your disabilities. On the other hand, society still doesn’t appear to know how to cater for people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or Mental Health conditions.
The first (and most useful) thing to do would be to realise we too are a useful part of society. This might involve having a true range of characters with physical disabilities in soaps and dramas going about their daily lives and the same for characters with Mental Health conditions – without the latter category being portrayed as the people most likely to commit some heinous crime or always “in crisis”. (I would love to see medication being openly discussed and taken as well.)
The next thing which could be done is involving us in the discussions you have when it comes to starting to plan new buildings and ventures. A “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t work when dealing with the wide variety of disabilities (or the various different ways disabilities affect how we live our lives). What might work very well for a textbook person with a sight problem might not (and, in some cases, will not) work for me.
As for when it comes to the workplaces – disabled people could potentially be the most useful members of your staff (if you are prepared to accommodate us). We naturally see things slightly differently (which might be useful if you are faced with a tricky situation or are looking for new ideas). When it comes to adaptability – we have to adapt to fit into your world anyway.
A disabled person shouldn’t feel like they need to work one hundred times harder than everyone else – to get the same recognition for their achievements – than the rest of the world. We shouldn’t have to shout a thousand times louder than everybody else in order to be heard. We should be able to be open and honest about how our disabilities affect our lives without fear of discrimination or abuse.
There is no such thing as a “Disabled” community – or a “community only containing people with Mental Health issues”. We live, work, and socialise in the same community as you.