Dec 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities was established in 1992 by the United Nations to help build awareness and shape policies that affect people with disabilities. Did you know that over 1 billion people around the world have some form of disability? The UN estimates that 100 million of these individuals are children.
Accessibility and inclusion are important issues that affect the everyday lives of people with disabilities. While our country and others throughout the world have made major improvements in supporting people’s needs, more work needs to be done. Many people with disabilities face barriers that exclude them from participation in life’s activities, including lack of health care, lack of access to education, physical barriers, and discrimination.
How can you help increase accessibility for people with disabilities? Here are some strategies:
- Use social media to show your support and raise awareness.
- Volunteer with a nonprofit organization that fights for the rights of people with disabilities.
- Get involved with the Campaign for Disability Employment.
- Think about events held at your school, workplace, or community. Are they accessible to people with disabilities? How could they be made accessible?
- Write to your Congress people about the need for inclusion and accessibility.
- Ask your employer to review its hiring practices with regard to hiring people with disabilities.
How can you help?
When you meet a person with a disability, you may not know how to react at first. It’s important that you treat the person as you would treat anyone else. Here are some tips:
1. Treat the person as an equal.
Be sure to treat people with disabilities as your equals. Don’t treat them with pity, and don’t treat them in any way that is condescending. Include them in conversations and activities, and interact with them the same as you would a person without a disability. Remember that their disability is just one part of the larger picture of who they are.
2. Ask for permission before helping.
Most people are kind-hearted and want to help a person with a disability. But before you jump in and start helping someone, you need to ask if they want help. It may be insulting the person to give help when it’s not needed or wanted. All you need to do is ask politely.
3. Use “person-first” language.
When you are referring to a person with a disability, be sure to use “person-first” language. People with disabilities generally do not want to be defined by their disability, so putting “person first” can help. For example, you would say “a girl with autism” rather than saying “an autistic girl.” Better yet, you could simply say “a girl” or “a girl who loves to color.” This puts the emphasis on the person, and not the disability.
4. Do not stare
It should go without saying that you should not stare at someone with a disability. Put yourself in the place of the person and think whether you would want people to stare at you. If you see a person with a disability in public, just look them in the eye and smile, just as you would do with anyone else.
5. Be appropriate with parents
If you know people whose children have disabilities, be sure to treat their children the way you treat other children. Don’t ask about the disability unless the parent seems to want to talk about it. Don't offer unsolicited advice. Instead, just try to be a good listener and allow the parent to tell you as much as they wish. If you know the parent well, you might offer to babysit or lend a hand with childcare.
For more detailed information on this topic, try the United Spinal Association’s Tips on Interacting With People With Disabilities. We hope this advice has helped you gain a better understanding and appreciation of the issues faced by people with disabilities.
Located in Melbourne, Florida, the Harris Casel Institute shares relevant news and information regarding public health issues and career advice in our weekly blog. Visit us online to learn more.