Today is the International Day of Disabled People, a day established by the United Nations in 1992 to to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Writing for Independent Lives, a UK organization that offers a range of support services for people with disabilities, care needs and caring responsibilities to enable them to lead full, active and independent lives, Charlie Willis speaks with authority as a disabled person who spends a great deal of time on disabled issues. I follow Charlie on Twitter where he describes himself as a Disabled person, creative, work for a charity. Passionate about disability issues. Queer/bi.
In his article he writes:
I am proud of my disability. My identity is empowered when other people recognise I have the right to make my own decisions about my life, and that society is responsible for the barriers I face, rather than my cerebral palsy. It is important to realise that individual impairments can affect disabled people; inadequate social care, toxic attitudes and inaccessibility of spaces and leadership affect us more.
Disabled people are so much more than our impairments. We often rely upon the right support from governments and social care providers to enable us to live more independently, with real choice and control. Regardless of what our social care needs are, disabled people bring so much experience, humour and diversity to every platform.
My disability is by no means a defining factor, but it has helped to shape the way I view the world around me. Negative attitudes towards disabled people are based on stigma and discrimination as well as archaic ideas about abnormality, freakishness and the assumption that every person with an impairment experiences a sense of loss.
Many disabled people still face significant challenges to accessing transport, buildings and the countryside. Accessibility is not just about ramps into buildings or hearing loops, but all spaces being created around the full range of public need. Accessibility is also about access to leadership, government and public appointments. How can we have better representation if our governments, media, and companies fail to represent disabled people or difference?
He goes on to explain why inclusion matters. You can read his full article here.
Featured image: Charlie Willis from his Twitter profile.