The issue of social attitudes towards differences and acceptance of diversity in our society raised in previous posts is the one I have also been thinking of writing a post about for quite a while.
Tolerance to differences and diversity is a cultural feature that does not form over night. Rather, it requires a long period of experiencing the differences in a meaningful way through positive interactions between disabled and non-disabled people and,thereby, accumulating a critical mass of changes in people’s mindsets necessary for a substantive shift toward a tolerant non-disablist culture. Bearing this in mind, I myself try to be active and open to people wherever I go and wherever in public I am.
Being in public and encountering a multitude of different people and correspondingly distinct attitudes, I do see absolutely diverse patterns of people’s ways to interact with persons with ‘disabilities’ (Let’s stick to this common, though not the best, term).
Comparing the attitudes of people to myself in the U.S. and Kazakhstan, in the former I often came across people who seemed to feel highly uncomfortable if/when they are not skilled/educated enough to properly accommodate / adapt to a ‘disabled’ person’s differences. While in Kazakhstan I run into unfriendly attitudes of locals right on the way from the plane to the bus in the Almaty airport when I returned back home after the long trip to the U.S. There were two ladies fussing who of them should help me get out to the waiting room. They barely cared about my presence there. It was a kind of reverse culture shock.
Of course, this is not to say that I experience only such ignorance / unfriendly attitudes here in Kazakhstan. However, a critical lack of appropriate education is the issue that always comes to my mind whenever I meet people outside walking by myself even on the NU’s campus with its well-educated community.
Even if people are friendly, their friendliness often turns to exhibit in the form of a degrading pity or patronizing condescension towards people who are believed to be deprived of something vital to live it up. For example, sometimes, I come across taxi drivers who say, perhaps, with the kindest intentions; “I don’t take money from people like you” and get stuck when they learn that I probably earn more than they do.
These accounts are based only on my own experience and I try not to make too broad generalizations. My main point here is that changing such attitudes is the key issue in endeavors to eliminate the disablist culture of the society since all other barriers can be removed / reduced only through forming an overall non-disablist culture and all-round acceptance of diversity.
P.S. Not those are disabled who have physical impairments, rather, those defective who are so ignorant as to not be able to understand/accept diversity and differences in others and such a ‘mental defect’ is much more harmful than any physical impairment.
Thanks to Dilshat whose post about the attitudes towards people with disabilities was an impulse for me to write this account which I was originally developing as a comment to her post. But it gradually grew up to more than 500 words becoming an independent piece of writing which, I thought, is worth posting separately.