Disabled people are always coming up against barriers. Often they’re physical like a step that’s too high, a broken lift, a cluttered toilet or a poorly thought out display But other barriers are to do with attitude, and a quick look at the Twitter hashtag #Heardwhilstdisabled will give you a flavour of the sort of comments and judgements disabled people are regularly faced with. Some recent examples include:
@transportforall “You shouldn’t be travelling by yourself. Haven’t you got a carer or something?”
@lisybabe “You need to bring proof of disability.” “Is my wheelchair not enough?” “No. You get people doing a Little Britain.”
@pseudodeviant “You’re so bright & articulate. You shouldn’t be disabled.”
@toddocracy “Where’s your Mummy?” #heardwhilstdisabled (I was 26)
I deal with comments like these some days, and I notice every single one. They don’t just have an impact on what I can do – they affect how I feel as well.
But I also notice every act of inclusion:
• The cushions already in the corner of a meeting room in case I have a ‘ticcing fit’
• The straw automatically brought with my drink in a café I go to often
• The restaurant with its floor plan arranged so I can wheel easily between the tables
• The ‘chugger’ who asked me if I had a minute rather than the person pushing my wheelchair
These aren’t big acts, but they have the power to build into something positive rather than maintaining something negative.
Taking an inclusive approach doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s simply the difference between an assumption that everyone can do things in the same way, and an understanding that some people need to do things differently.
This shift in thinking goes beyond disability and is something that everybody can benefit from.
In a time when government policies threaten basic rights and propaganda seeks to stir up division, it’s more important than ever that we think independently and inclusively everyday.