How Do We Start To See Disability Differently?
When was the last time you saw a person and not a statistic?
While attitudes towards those living with a disability have come a long way, it can still be hard for us to fully realize the wasted potential that comes from making assumptions about what someone can or can’t do. Society creates lots of little disadvantages for those who are already living in a world that is not set up for them – but it doesn’t have to be that way. When we are consciously inclusive – taking steps to ensure that the way we design things and go about them is equally accessible to all – everyone wins. A diverse society, with lots of different viewpoints and talents to offer, is a stronger society. Disability is just one aspect of life – disabled people are working mums, entrepreneurs, family members, athletes and much, much more.
There are still gaping inequalities in opportunity, pay, and almost every other sphere of life when you are living with a disability. Research shows us that:
- Disabled people are paid, on average, 12% less than their counterparts – and this rises to 15% in London
- Almost half (49%) of those with a disability have experienced discrimination in their leisure time
- 27% of people in families which include a disabled adult or child are classed as living in poverty
These shameful statistics show that there is still a long way to go in ensuring the fairness of opportunity for all. We can all take steps to change this situation and become more inclusive. So how can the change that is so desperately needed come about?
Realize The Consumer Power Of Disabled Customers – Those managing a disability are the most significant minority in society by far. Instead of seeing inclusive design as a hindrance, companies should see it for what it truly is – an opportunity. Models with both physical disabilities and learning impairments are starting to be more visible in advertising campaigns, but that is only the start. The real progress is in designing inclusive products and working collaboratively with those who are disabled to produce them. From adapted clothing to Pentagon Motability Scheme cars, the demand is there – if companies are brave enough to realize it.
Ensure Equal Employment – The reason that there is so much unconscious discrimination in the way that processes, products, and services are designed is simple – those living with a disability are severely under-represented in most companies. Disabled people are just as ambitious as anyone else – and are usually pretty inventive at overcoming obstacles, having faced a few in their lives. Too many employers are afraid to ask the simple question of what adjustments may be needed to accommodate an employee with a disability.
Create Socially Inclusive Education – An open dialogue around disabilities needs to be promoted throughout the educational system. Schools need to ensure that their curriculums contain content about the subject, with Disability History taken seriously, and learning to celebrate people for their differences rather than trying to gloss over them. Disabled people need to be given the same opportunities as everyone else, but that doesn’t mean they ARE the same as everyone else. What makes us all different is what makes us unique, and being unique is a strength.