Who is really disabled? or The importance of transforming people’s mindset towards inclusivity.

File:Alternative Handicapped Accessible sign.svg
Alternative International Symbol of Access, which attempts to change social perceptions of disability. Image by Brian Glenney and Sara Hendren is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 and retrieved from accessibleicon.org

Recently, I was facebooking and came up with an interesting post of one of the friends of mine about his visit to the center for physically disabled people. In his post he wrote about a girl who shared her life story and thoughts about it. I was really touched and, eventually, was inspired to write about it. The original story was written in Kazakh. I will do my best not to change the message translating the story.

It was a hot summer. My mother and I were at a doctor and after medical check we were given the list of medicines that we had to buy. Then on the way to the drugstore I have noticed that some people were looking at me sitting on wheelchair with a great sympathy, others were passing with pride and arrogance. Then I thought looking at them: “If I were able to walk like these people would I treat the same as they do?” Most likely it will be otherwise. We reached the drugstore and my mother left me outside and entered there.

          I was sitting and moving my wheelchair. The sun was shining brightly, flowers smelled fragrantly. Suddenly, a woman passing by came up and was trying to find some money in her pocket. “I don’t need your money”, I said with anger and with pain questioned myself:”Do I look so helpless and pitiful?”. “I am not a beggar, I don’t need your money”, repeated I and another man came up and said: “Better give me that money, to the beggar like me”. The man looked slovenly and he smelled of alcohol. The woman gave him the money and went along. 

           Coming back home I started to speculate about those people who can see, hear and walk on their own but they became baggers and continue to harm their health. Whereas people like me who can’t even make a step on their own still striving and trying to become as everyone else.

Who is really disabled then?

The issue raised in this life story is vital. It has a direct relation to the inclusion in education which is considered as a right but difficult way to choose. Different stakeholders have different perspectives and most of them are skeptical about it. First and foremost precondition for inclusive education to become successfully implemented is people’s readiness to accept those “unusual” people as they are. That is to say, to create inclusive society. It is social values and perception which determine whether to include or exclude a specific characteristic of an individual. As the Department of Economic and Social Affairs report defines:

“Social inclusion of the excluded groups can only happen

if everyone becomes “part of the group” that defines the culture,

values and standards of the society in which they live” (p.32)

         Labeling them as people with special needs or Russian equivalent “люди с ограниченными возможностями” (people with limited opportunities) we define and affect people’s attitude towards them (Actually, we are all with limited opportunities). This is a result of social identity, meaning person’s self-conception derived from the group they were categorized to. As a rule, people want to possess a positive identity where they are valued and respected. Otherwise, in the society where there is an imbalance between the individual’s power may end up with the process of social exclusion (DESA, 2009). To achieve the social inclusion it is necessary to change the meaning and values associated with unfavorable characteristics.

This can be achieved by raising people’s awareness with help of education system, mass media and social campaigns. People have to realize that inclusive education doesn’t necessarily mean studying with disabled people. Instead, inclusive education is aiming to find and focus on what a student can do. It is clear from this point that every child regardless of his/her level of capacity is going to benefit from the education which is inclusive. Undoubtedly, it is not an easy task to make people to “embrace” people who are excluded from the first attempts. In this case, media and social campaigns is going to become important stakeholders in this essential but challenging process.

Going back to the story, it is possible to draw a conclusion that these people do want us approach them better and want to become a part of the community which is called “Humankind”.

P.S. Food For Thought:

If you fail to see potential in the person but only see person’s disability, then who is blind?

If you cannot hear your brother’s cry for help and justice, then who is deaf?

If you cannot stand up for the right of all people, then who is cripple?

If you cannot have the patience, the tolerance and understanding for individual differences, then who is mentally-handicapped?

 (retrieved from: http://www.gg.rhul.ac.uk/ict4d/disability.html)

References:

 

DESA. (2009). Creating an Inclusive Society: Practical Strategies to Promote Social Integration.

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4 thoughts on “Who is really disabled? or The importance of transforming people’s mindset towards inclusivity.

  1. I really like your post, Dilshat. Especially I would totally agree with you about the perspective that considers some ordinary people as with special needs due to their inability to see what’s in depth, not only what’s lying on the surface or to hear someone’s cry for help…

    Your post also made me remember conflicting feelings and thoughts I have when passing by or when I am around people with special needs. I am always confused what to do. My first unconscious willing is to give way or to show my sympathy in any other way. But then I remember that some of them do not like being standing out or even hate when people feel pity for them, because they want to be treated equally as toward others. So then I try not to emphasize my attention to them. And this try make me think if I look indifferently or even arrogant?

    My example is another confirmation that society should be ready to make education inclusive. And I would again agree with you that people’s awareness should be raised through different kinds of instruments like mass media, social campaigns and maybe some kind of trainings.

    Like

  2. Personally, i believe both drunk baggers and people with limited opportunities are disabled.The only difference is that ones damage their health and the others are trying to recover it. Anyway, both of them are considered to be miserable and unhappy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Dilshat,

    First of all, many thanks for thought provoking post, I have really enjoyed reading it. Finally, I have made my way to comment on your post .
    I entirely agree and support each of your statement. It is really big injustice and even a “crime” to treat people that way (as in the story you shared). Additionally, to your reflection I would like to mention, that family institution plays incredible role in promotion of social justice and inclusion. Everything starts with and in family.
    Not always, but usually children are mirrors of their parents. Family members are supposed to share common values. Mass media and educational establishments have to promote the agenda so that to give a message to parents.
    After reading the story of the girl, I remembered similar one that happened many years ago. My friend and I used to attend piano classes, we were around 9-10 years old. Her brother was diagnosed with infantile cerebral palsy. It was New Year’s Eve, and our musical school organized for us New Year party. We were told to invite our siblings. So my friend brought her brother. It took tremendous effort for us, little girls to lift him on the second floor. However, it was the easiest part. The hardest was to see faces of other children. When music played, we wanted to dance with the whole crowd, but children just left our area and did not want to welcome in their dancing circles. Some children shouted at us, asking to leave the room. We helplessly looked at our teachers, they tried to smooth everything but it did not work well. So the whole evening we stayed there three of us, alone but not lonely. We decided to have fun anyway. What was really painful that children can hurt, and adults are not able to give right upbringing.
    As every snowflake is unique in its structure, human beings are also different. Each of us has something to share and add another various colour and flavour to our world. In fact, society by exlucding certain group of people have to understand that it excludes itself from witnessing bright thoughts and actions.
    I hope that in nearest future social commitment among our citizens will increase. They say «Hope springs eternal in the human breast». Sorry for keeping it long.

    Liked by 1 person

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