Today is International Day of People With a Disability.
I have had a disability my entire life. People and organisations and the government have “known” (or at least, mistakenly thought), I have had a disability for at least 17 years. I have been physically disabled for eight years, and have been on the Disability Support Pension for nearly four years.
First time I’ve heard of IDPWD was a couple of days ago.
It’s not that I mind missing out on events, gala or otherwise, that are held on or close to this very special day.
It’s that events and days such as this should mean something to the people that they are supposed to represent.
I just had a look and Telstra won the award for Excellence in Improving Employment Opportunities Award.
Ever heard a pensioner complain about Telstra? Of COURSE you have!!! Does Telstra, as a general rule, give a shit about people with disabilities? Not in the slightest. They give a shit about shareholders. And as a company in a capitalist country, so they should.
I wonder if I am the only one who thinks that there shouldn’t be awards for improving employment opportunities. I think there should be jail time for the people in charge of companies and businesses who employ less than a certain percentage of people with disabilities. And I mean a certain percentage in each job classification too, where numbers allow. None of this “we will hire people to wash our cars and clean our toilets, but damned if I am employing someone with a disability to be a manager!” type shit that seems to occur. For an example, a few years ago, a local supermarket loved to use people with a disability to be trolley boys (and of course, shout out about it anywhere they could to show how “inclusive” they were), but I could not get a job there as a check out chick because sitting down does not look professional.
Governments should also be setting an example and leading the way with this – with a long stint in the local slammer for the Mayor, Premier, or Prime Minister, if standards are not reached.
How quickly do you think all the excuses would disappear then?
The theme for this years International Year of People With Disabilities is all about inclusion – so this would be a good time to start campaigning for such legislation I think!
But back to the original problem of – what does this day mean to me, as a person with a disability?
Nothing. It means nothing. And that is really very sad. It means nothing to me because I can not see anything happening that makes a difference. I’m sure the Awards I’ve talked about were nice, but only a handful of people got to go to them. I’m sure that perhaps the awards may inspire one or two people, or even businesses or companies, to do better for people with disabilities in the future, and that is good, though perhaps not as significant as one would hope. Perhaps certain regions held public events, perhaps even mine, however I have not personally heard of any bar one school event for kids.
One event listed (in another town) that I DID find had “limited wheelchair access”. Epic fail there guys, really.
So, why is it the case that a day about people with disabilities essentially fails on a multitude of levels? Gala dinners that are about professionals, not people, community events that are inaccessible… And a lack of advertising and getting the word out to people for whom the day is for.
Is this a local problem? Are local organisations failing the people they are supposed to serve? Is it up to local organisations to plan events and advertising and advocating? Are governments failing their people?
Or are we failing ourselves?
I think it’s the latter.
People with disabilities come in all shapes and sizes. Certainly there is a percentage that cannot participate in managing such things, however there is a large percentage who can. There are a large percentage of us who could stand up and say “hey this is OUR day, so let’s party!!!”. So why don’t we do just that? Are we waiting for our carers to do it? Are we waiting for organisations to do it?
I must admit, it is pretty hard to get anyone to listen to you when you have a disability. Everyone wants to talk to the experts, and few realise that the expert is YOU. Everyone wants to talk to the carer about your needs instead of you, and everyone assumes that because you are on a pension, and not working, then you must be one hell of a fucking idiot.
It can be hard to speak up and say “hey, listen up you bunch of twats. I have the right to an education, I have the right to pursue employment and I have the right to decent health care. I paid my taxes, same as you, and if I didn’t, my family does, so you know what? I MATTER!!! Not more than you, not more than your family, but certainly not less either. And for today, International Day of Persons With a Disability, just for today, I am going to party and celebrate the fact that I am unique and have perspectives on life that no one else can possibly have, and I am going to stand up and tell the world that they need to shut up and listen. They need to stop telling me what I need and listen to me when I tell them what I need. They need to stop telling me how it can’t be done, and start working with me to find a way to do it. They need to embrace my individuality and potential and recognise that I have a right to the same opportunities as everyone else. And most of all – they need to recognise that I have a right to the same basic quality of life as everyone else.
If you are not sure what having a basic quality of life means, it means that having a shower or bath at least once a day should be a basic right. It means that instead putting up with shitting yourself on Tuesday and having to wait until Friday for a shower, that having basic hygiene needs met in your own home should be as natural as having running water in your own home. It means that when you require a wheelchair, then you get one. No questions, no waiting lists, no excuses that funding has run out… You just get one. Period. Etc. Etc.
If people with a disability all stood up together, and shouted together, do you think we would be heard? At the moment, I see carers over here getting together, and people with MS getting together over there. The deaf community is a whole separate community, and then there are those like me who don’t really belong anywhere. And nobody talks about it. It’s taboo really, to discuss the problems we have with each other. But we do have problems with each other. We stick together to our own disability kind, and it’s not ALL about education and camaraderie. Maybe it is because services and funding are so limited and we compete with each other to have basic needs met, or maybe it is because humans just like to have a go at each other for fun. Whatever it is, it happens, that division. And it’s really sad.
Maybe next year we can get something happening all together. Maybe we can join together, not for something political like the NDIS, where opinions are varied, but for something basic – A day for people with disabilities. Maybe we can get together and say “We matter”. That’s it. I don’t think anyone can pick a fight over that one. Just “We matter”. A slight hint to the rest of the community that we are not going to be ignored. We will be heard.
We will be heard.