Did you know that about 15% of the world’s population lives with some kind of disability? Whoa. That means more than 1 billion people are facing all kinds of barriers: physical, social, economic and attitudinal. According to the UN, we are disproportionately represented among the world’s poorest and lack equal access to basic resources in education, employment, healthcare, social and legal situations. Yet, we have remained largely invisible. Crazy, right?
As a person born with some loss of hearing, I’ve always tried to be an equal participant in the world as I believe I can do anything that a person with full hearing can do. As you might guess, not hearing everything can be limiting and, coupled with a recent diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, I have needed and have asked for additional resources to keep working, to keep playing, to keep living the life I want to live. In my little world, I try to break down the barriers as best I can.
At home, I added Closed Captioning to the TV set so I can get every word uttered during the latest episode of Modern Family (this turns out to be funnier than intended because sometimes those folks typing out the actor’s lines really get it wrong). At work, I’ve asked for small but mighty powerful tools to help me do my job effectively. After all, it is very important be on an equal playing field with my colleagues. At play, I’ve added things to my bicycle to help see well. This is especially important because I totally love to ride my bicycle as fast as possible and I don’t want a case of flaring optic neuritis to get in my way!
These are just a few examples and upon realizing that the world is embarking on another International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on December 3, 2013, I thought to broaden and expand this list of breaking barriers and share my Top 5 ways to observe this important day.
As you read the list, I invite you to think about these key words today, featured on the UN website, as we continue to break barriers and open doors: include, organize, celebrate and take action.
Top 5 ways to observe IDPD2013:
- Consider using different language. When communicating, try to put the person first, not their disability. Use “person with disability” not “disabled person”, in your conversations. This slight change focuses on a person’s individuality and empowers. For more positive phrases, check out the ODEP website.
- Stand up! In the United States, we who live with some kind of disability do have rights, especially in the workplace (hence, “reasonable accommodation”) and it’s important to ask for the tools needed to be effective. Through my employer, I was able to get a Pocket Talker to help hear better during large meetings and other goodies that have made a huge difference.
- Strengthen your independence. Reach out to local and state agencies, such as the Department of Rehabilitation, for assistance. I was able to get a really groovy alarm clock that shakes my bed awake with a buzzer that I place in my mattress. It’s so cool.
- Celebrate! If you know someone who has made a contribution in breaking down barriers and opening doors, let’s celebrate them!
- Chat about this important day. Send tweets, update your Facebook page or take a photo to share on Instagram. Use the following hashtags #IDPD2013, #thisability, and #IDPD on your pages and status updates. For example, you could send a tweet as follows: “I'm supporting this year's International Day of Persons with Disabilities #thisability #IDPD.
So, as we clink glasses to commemorate another IDPD, let’s strive for ways to focus on the inclusion of disability in all aspects of our lives, on the basis of human equality.
P.S. check out this rad stamp of Chuck Close! The United Nations General Assembly (UNPA) selected artists with incredible stories that “…highlight the positive power of full and equal participation of peoples with disabilities.”
|Celebrating an incredible story!|
United Nations website: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1607
United States Department of Labor, ODEP (Office of Disability Employment Policy): http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/comucate.htm