As I sit here tired, sleepy and with many thoughts running through my mind, I’m conscious of the importance of today for persons with disabilities.
December 3 is “International Day of People with Disabilities” and not only is this day celebrated around the world as it is a United Nations sanctioned day that aims to promote an understanding of people with disabilities and encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being, but it is also the 20th year since this day was established and celebrated.
I’ve encountered many negatives along the way, but thought that like any other celebrated day whether birthday, anniversary etc, December 3rd, should be filled with celebration and a message of hope. As I look around the world, there are many things which have happened and are happening that gives reason to believe that there is hope for a brighter tomorrow.
This year’s UN theme is: “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all” and I couldn’t help but think of us here in Barbados as far as accessibility in some areas are concerned.
The obvious thought which crossed my mind was of course the Fully Accessible Barbados programme which is an initiative of the Barbados Council for the Disabled, recognising the importance of accessibility in order to achieve the truly inclusive society.
Some hotels, restaurants and places of interest have come on board and bought into the concept and reality that the disabled has a right to access just like anyone else. Added to that is the fact that when you market yourself as a business which caters to the needs of the disabled then that gives you an edge and benefits you literally in dollars and cents!
I’ve also seen an increase of acceptance in some schools where the disabled are mainstreamed; and as someone who believes that mainstreaming works I think this is a very progressive move for all parties involved. Even ramps which 10 years ago were considered a nice addition to a facility are practically built into the average construction and architectural plan.
Not only here, but things are happening all over the world even if not at a rapid rate. Parents with special needs children are fighting for the rights of their children who are unable to articulate and even standing with those who can speak for themselves just so they have access to basic things which they need to survive.
Many countries have public transportation that caters to the physically challenged, including buses, taxis, coaches, and have made life easier to those who wish to be independent as opposed to “bothering” a family member anytime they want to do something as simple as go to the grocery store to buy milk.
Ever so often I see many pictures of different vehicles which not only cater to the disabled but are built solely for them, and can’t help but think that when we all start to think of inclusiveness as a way of life then ideas would start to flow because our minds would have been opened to the possibilities thereby ridding said minds and hearts of restrictions.
The disabled are everywhere. They are doctors, lawyers, activists, models, teachers, pilots — any profession you can think of you’ll find them there! They are invited to fully participate in events that do not even have a disabled theme; the organisers just want to include them because they have the skill and talent; and it’s that last point that really drives it home.
It’s not about doing something which separates us, but it’s understanding that everybody can live in the same space. It’s not about inviting someone in a wheelchair to dance for you because he or she disabled — it’s inviting a gifted dancer to perform because he or she is good at it but happens to be in a wheelchair.
Although there has been progress we still have lots of work to do. There are minds which need to be opened, hearts which need to be willing and money which needs to be given to the cause and call for inclusiveness.
Change really does start with each and every one of us individually and we can all play a part by saying no to ignorance and by giving people a chance. The real limit is in our minds, and when we begin to think differently then we act differently, and when that happens we all get a little closer to change.