I broke my leg two weeks ago. So? People are always going about breaking their leg. Just last week I met a man who had broken eight bones in a nasty football accident. What these accidents have in common though, is that for a month or two, they give you a taste of what it is like for people who have to live their whole life with a physical disability. A world which people tend to ignore except for the casual odd penny in the charity box is one which many have to go through on a daily basis.
For starters, the morning coffee run becomes impossible. The high street becomes a minefield of people ready to push you over in their impatient hurry to get their latte and when you take a while longer to cross the road, then it becomes a race for your life, literally. Visiting shops are only possible if they have lifts and restaurants are a time bomb. What if you need to use the bathroom while you are there and there is no disabled toilet? Restaurants have tried to accommodate but their lack of planning becomes evident when the disabled toilet is placed at the top of the stairs.
These basic considerations are essential in allowing disabled people to integrate into society as they remove the restrictions that prevent them from interacting with the outside world. The fact is, disabled people do not want to be cooped up indoors all day. They desire to delight and revel in the spirit of life but if they cannot even get to the bus stop because the pavements are not lowered to allow them to cross the road, then how are disabled people able to live?
Another important aspect of life is social interaction and for disabled people, it becomes tiresome and demoralising when all they receive are pitiful glances and people talking to them as if they are children. They may have impaired mobility but their brains may be sharper than yours so do not talk to them as if they are not adults.
Disabled people are capable of contributing to the betterment of society but this requires able-bodied people to understand, realise and accept this. Friends are hugely important but constant comments like ‘I feel so sorry for you’ certainly do not help.
So, the world needs to wake up to the difficulties disabled people face. Simple changes can have a great impact. If you own a shop, ensure it has disabled access. If you are the head of a university, what have you done to address this issue? If you have a friend who is disabled, be a positive influence in their life. Whichever position we hold and wherever we go, we can make a difference. We just need to wake up to this fact.
Sometimes when we get caught up in our own world, we forget the struggle others go through as we feel what we are experiencing is the most important thing that needs to be addressed. For example, the issues disabled people face on a daily basis is beyond the imagination of those who do not face the same problems.
In English class, we read an article by Andre Dworkin titled ‘Through the Pain Barrier’ (23 April 2005, Guardian) which was a window into the world that many people tend to ignore and dismiss. The above article was a task set in which I had to adapt the lengthy article in to one which persuades people that the issues disabled people go through need to be taken seriously (So I didn’t actually break my leg just to be clear!)
Although society has advanced in this aspect, I really do feel we still have a long way to go before disabled people can be referred to as disabled without the stereotypical views and baggage attached to the term entering our minds. Of course, I do not claim to have intricate and exact knowledge about the difficulties disabled people face (and I apologise for any errors made) but from Dworkin’s article, I used her experiences to create mine and I hope it persuades you to see physical disability as something that can still allow people to enjoy life, if we could just be a little more considerate.
Until Next Time,
A Worried Student