December 3rd is International Day of Persons with a Disability 2018 (#IDPWD #PurpleLightUp) The theme this year is, “empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”
This is a huge theme as it aims to highlight the barriers to inclusiveness and equality disabled people are faced with every day. This got me thinking about what this theme means to me personally.
I wasn’t born with disabilities, I was able bodied till around 6 years ago when MS started swallowing up my mobility! After months of stubbornly trying to manage with 2 walking sticks, I finally admitted defeat and got myself a mobility scooter.
This was a big step for me (excuse the pun) but instead of being confined by my wheels I actually felt freed by them! I could go shopping again, for example, or on walks with my children without being exhausted and consumed with fatigue.
I could also carry on working which is important to me as I like my financial independence. My employers have been fantastic, making sure they comply with the Equality act 2010 by making reasonable adjustments and allowing me to use my scooter in the office, but disabled people can never feel fully included for a number of reasons.
My team like to go on nights out which involves going to local pubs and restaurants. I’m usually excluded from this as most venues aren’t accessible. They go to a regular pub quiz, for example, and I can’t join in.
They also have yoga on our office roof terrace and I’m excluded from that as the lift doesn’t go to the roof.
Travelling to different office locations is also difficult for me due to the challenges of public transport or lack of parking. This means I exclude myself from promotions or training events as the barriers seem too big to get around.
Going out socially is hard due to inaccessibility so I miss out on nights out and get togethers. Most people don’t have accessible houses or disabled toilets, so I’m excluded from visiting them.
I have a handful of friends who make sure we catch up at my house, but my social life has shrunk considerably due to a lack of inclusiveness and equality.
A lack of dropped curbs as well as uneven pavements and roads make it difficult to go out on my own. I’m terrified of falling off my scooter and ending up on my face, unable to get up again.
The barriers to public transport are also enormous with lots of train stations and bus stops inaccessible to disabled people.
So, I’ve solved the problem of my lack of mobility by investing in a mobility scooter, but society throws up a whole load of barriers that seem to conspire against me.
I don’t want to appear to be moaning or feeling sorry for myself. I have a nice life and have much to feel thankful for. I also fully understand that it’s impossible to pull down all the old buildings and infrastructure and start again.
What I’d like to see is more businesses and venues embracing disabled people and making adjustments where they can to ensure inclusiveness and equality. If barriers were reduced and things were more accessible to us more of us would feel empowered to get out there and live in the world. We’d be working more, contributing more and surely that’s a win/win situation for everyone?
What do you think? What would empower you? What do you think ensures inclusiveness and equality?