Just last week I read this news article from the Disability News service https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/equalityact?source=feed_text&story_id=1172245556134915, which got me thinking about the confusion and miscommunication within the government and lack of real understanding of what is needed to help the disabled be integrated fully into society in whatever sphere it maybe whether it be entertainment, sports and access to city centres and public services. It then struck me that there were 3 Es to inclusion, a friend of mine came up with the 4th. So here is my solution using the 4 Es,,
Education in all its forms is vital from the school system teaching children about disability to Disability Awareness Training being provided in the workplace, I believe this should be mandatory for all HR practitioners if it isn’t already, and be part of courses in relation to employment or education. The public sector should be leading the way in this field. At the same time those of us with disabilities, should find opportunities where possible to educate those around us, when questions are asked no matter how irritating/embarrassing/nosey/stupid the question, answer in a calm manner as possible. I believe charities should encourage more educational advertising and TV documentary’s. Hopefully that may at least lessen the ignorance and discrimination surrounding disability and encourage integration. However, I do believe that people with disabilities are often the best teachers in this field as they have to educate people pretty regularly on what should or shouldn’t be done. So if any of my disabled friends are wanting a new career direction try teaching!!
The DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) now Equality Act, in theory is a great tool to encourage integration by stamping out discrimination and inequality, however these acts don’t really carry much weight, for instance employers seem to be more frightened of health and safety legislation than the Employment Equality legislation, how is that possible. This is simply because there is little consequence of breaching it and discrimination can be hard to prove in certain circumstances. If the Lords are questioning the power of the DDA/Equality Act its not surprising given slow progress in so many areas. But then it begs the question what is the best way of enforcing these Acts, should the rules be tightened or boundaries broadened what constitutes discrimination. I personally believe there should be both a carrot and stick approach in these regards. If the other 3 Es I’m writing about are not supported then this is a last resort. No disabled person wants to drag able bods kicking and screaming to offer us services or employment without reservation or discrimination but it seems to me that’s where its heading in light of the fact the Acts have had so little effect on inclusion, particularly in the area of employment.
This is probably the best way to encourage inclusion, just by the able bodied community showing their openness with the disabled community looking to engage in different matters, whether it be of public interest or social interaction. By involving disabled people in discussion groups, meetings and policy making decisions, it gives the disabled person a voice in the community, the able bodied will see the way disabled people use their transferrable skills they’ve learnt to deal with their particular disability, their problems solving skills, adaptability in difficult circumstances, their ability to think outside the box and level of experience, compassion and wisdom that can be offered in all matters not just concerning disability. By engagement and exposure the able bodied people can learn how if in the event they or their family members would overcome obstacles, problems, and learn the new techniques needed to live amongst the able bodied, this would also blast the fear of disability amongst the able bodied and also make it seem more ‘normal’ and liveable, as the biggest problem with being disabled is being rerated with equal value in society. Communication for disabled people is vital to feel a part of society whatever form that takes whether it is written or verbal. That would be the first step to encourage engagement. Most people who engage with a disabled person find that after a while they forget the person has a disability and can see past it.
The words I most often hear from people with disabilities is “they should walk a mile in my shoes” Probably after engagement this is the best way to integrate us into society. How can you help a disabled person without understanding them. How can one judge without understanding. How can anything be really improved without empathy and compassion. Here’s an example many disabled people struggle with shared surfaces, they are not confident in using them, particularly those who are sight/hearing impaired. Although vehicles are slower they are quieter, with other competing noises unless you have excellent hearing you haven’t got a chance to get out of the way if a vehicle suddenly appears from seemingly nowhere, a taxi driver just the other day swung from behind to the left of me, I didn’t hear it behind me. It only takes one bad move by the unseeing, unhearing pedestrian to end up coming into contact with another vehicle. How can empathy work here, well literally take a blind fold and ear muffs, stick them on the head of an able bodied person and see how they manage without help, they will soon understand the health and safety risks involved, they will soon understand things from our point of view and will LISTEN and respond to what’s required to improve safety whilst walking on foot. There’s nothing like empathy to really know the implications of living with a disability, without empathy there is no action.
The 4 Es I’ve listed above are just brief descriptions of what’s needed to integrate the disabled person into society, without Education , Engagement and Empathy there will be no action and the walls of discrimination, resentment, and ignorance towards people with disabilities will continue, and the law of enforcement will have to take over which may not be so desired even by those with disabilities, so I would encourage anyone reading this who is able bodied to put these things in mind particularly if you are involved with any organisation, business or public sector, consider using the 3 Es to show above all that you value people with disabilities and you are willing to show that they are valuable to the able bodied people around them.