Today is International Day of People with Disability.
It’s a day for celebrating difference, for acknowledging ability. It’s a day for shouting out achievements from the rooftops. What a brilliant group of people live in the category of ‘People with Disability’. As I get to know more people in this new community of mine, I am staggered. I wonder if you are aware too? When was the last time you interacted with someone of differing ability? Did you feel strange? Did you wonder about who they are? Did you get beyond the difference to see the similarities?
I was walking through a group of parents at my son’s school the other morning. I have only been walking with a cane this year, apart from it, my disability is largely invisible. I have a neurological disorder that makes it difficult for me to stand for long. Getting around is increasingly more challenging. I use the cane for balance and it’s built in seat as somewhere to perch when the dizziness overwhelms.
“MAKE WAY FOR THE DISABLED LADY!” my son yells out, like a town crier. I cringe. I don’t like to be looked at, at the best of times. I felt at once awkward and neon lit.
“Zed!” I admonished.
“What?!” He looks at me, his eyes wide. He grins. “But you ARE, Mum! I’m just getting them up to speed”.
I look at his face and think about how simple it all is when you are seven. How simple it really should stay. I think about how adulthood and social stigma and self-consciousness and the media and social norms all teach us about what
It’s time for a different conversation. It’s time for me to join my son in getting people up to speed. I spent last Saturday night at a function for the Be.Accessible Movement. It’s the first function I have been to where I felt able to sit when I needed to, able to be real about how I was feeling without it dampening the mood in the slightest. There was room in that function hall for difference. No questioning looks, no awkwardness. I was not ‘other’ but, ‘another’. There were genuinely fantastic people to meet, fast connections; no barriers. It was a revelation to me. I wish that all of society could function this way. And I believe it can.
If I can make a difference to you, if you can make a difference to someone else. If making a difference is simply in noticing the sameness within difference, we’re on our way.
This beautiful verse crossed my path yesterday. Perfect timing for this International Day of People with Disability. (FYI: the Kahikatea is a wide branching New Zealand native tree).
By Henry Melburn
E tu kahikatea
E whakapai ururoa
Awhi mai awhi atu
Tatou tatou e, tatou tatou e
Stand tall like the kahikatea
To brave the changes
Embrace one another
We are one together
I made this facebook cover this morning (feel free to use it for your facebook today). I thought Homer’s words express what I am trying to say. There may be differences in the ability of the “disabled” that people consider to be weakness. But there are strengths beyond belief. There is value and diversity and an untapped resource of brilliance in this community. We need to start seeing all diverse groups within our society as part of the whole. Let’s unite en force: