My ‘3 Buzzwords’ on Disability Sensitisation

**To my more regular readers: I know a lot of the ideas today have been mentioned before but, I think these issues bear repeating. All the same, enjoy the reading.

For those of you familiar with South Africa, you’d know our track record with regards to disability isn’t the greatest. That said, there are organisations like the Chaeli Campaign or the Altitude Group that strive to improve the lives of disabled people.

Yesterday, I found myself being taken to a school in Cape Town through work so as to help out with an introduction to ‘Disability Sensitivity Training.’ I think it went well (even if I do say so myself). I was caught relatively off-guard when work asked me to do this so a lot of the stuff I said I had to do off-the-cuff. Looking back at the hastely-sketched argument I made, some of the points I made I feel are worth repeating: my ‘3 Buzzwords on Disability in Society’ if you will.

1. Subjectivity

While the nature of a person’s disability is more-or-less unique, one should be aware of the basic characteristics (for want of a better word) of the common disabilities at the very least. That said, the way disability affects a person is largely subjective. Since a person’s life is highly subjective, we should not presume that all disabled people’s needs are identical. No two people are exactly alike, why should a disability remove our individuality?

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Terminologies & Apologiesabout a person preferring one term over another when it comes to referring to their disability. This is fine. Since disability is a personal thing, it is up to the individual as to what they want and we should respect that.

2. Identity

I know I discussed this topic in a previous post but I think it bears repeating all the same.

Whether we have a disability or not we have just as much right to identify the way we want to and no one has the right to change that. Therefore, do we not have a right to identify as Disabled, should we choose? In my case, I don’t see how I cannot. Being born with a disability means it permeates so much of my interaction with society that I can’t even imagine life without as a ‘normal’ person.

That said, it is worth noting that a disability does not entirely define a person.

3. Equality

Discrimination in any form is vile. I think we can all agree on that. Why, then, is Ableism so widely tolerated? Maybe it’s just me but I feel that society worries so much about being politically correct on so many issues but discrimination towards disabled people is relatively ignored. Why is that? Surely, if we recognise discrimination is bad, why do we seemingly disregard the disabled population? What makes us different?

I’m all for acknowledging our differences with one caveat: we also acknowledge our uniformity. Difference should be celebrated. Imagine how boring life would be if we all looked, sounded, and thought in exactly the same way all the time. Where would Literature come from? What would happen to debate? It’s Difference, friends, that makes life entertaining and worth living.

That said, at no point is ‘Difference’ a synonym for ‘Inferior.’ We’re all, somewhat paradoxically, unique  AND identical at the same time. Just because we express our differences doesn’t mean that we aren’t entitled to the same treatment as anyone else. In the ideal world, every person should be viewed as socially unique while legally identical.

After all, what entitles any person to unequal treatment in the first place?

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