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Patience With Public Perception

Last time, on the

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge,http://rosebfischer.com/2014/07/15/the-redefining-disability-awareness-challenge/

I wrote about my diagnosis of kidney disease:

The D Word!

Here’s today’s question.

***

Q: How has public perception of disability changed in your lifetime?

A: Okay, so I will try my best to look at this question with an optimistic viewpoint, as much as possible – because although progression doesn’t happen as quickly as I’d like it to, it does happen.

I don’t know if so-called “public perception” has changed all that much really.

Yeah, the optimism is coming…just wait for it.

🙂

All I mean by that is that although conditions are hopefully improving, the question of what the public thinks, feels, or knows logically or through education are all different questions.

I was born in the 1980s and so not that long ago, in the grand scheme of things. In that time, in the US there was the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which came on the scene six years after I was born.

Here in Canada, we have:

**The Charter of Rights and Freedoms

and

**The Canadian Human Rights Act

http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/about/

Disability is such a broad and all-encompassing term. It isn’t easy to lobby for every single disability out there.

http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/about/history

There’s a little thing called equal opportunities, which is becoming more commonly known in workplaces, but I still sense a lot of ignorance and discrimination, whether meaning it or not, by employers toward anyone with a disability:

I want to know my obligations. – Canadian Human Rights Commission

Right there!

The fact that the word “obligation” is used feels ugly. I read that and I already feel like I’m an obligation or a burden, just something mandated by the government and forced upon every unsuspecting company.

If so, well what’s wrong with that then?

I should be happy with that, right? The government is taking the necessary steps toward inclusion.

Laws may be the first step, but in many ways, they aren’t the most important one that will make the world a more inclusive place for everyone.

I believe terms such as “obligation” keep things just as focused on the negatives and downsides as my own negative tone of which I promise to keep adjusting.

I may come off sounding demanding and I am, but I am willing to do my part.

I am the first to admit that I am not always a patient person, like with this issue, but I also need to work on speaking up for myself and hopefully I can make it better for someone with a disability, thirty or fifty years from now.

Accommodations must be made, but until our world opens their minds and hearts and sees less differences, I fear this will never lead to the inclusion I dream of.

So what will it take to change the public’s perceptions fully?

Here’s a blog post my friend Steph, fashion and lifestyle blogger for women who are visually impaired wrote about that:

Observing 25 Years of the ADA – Bold Blind Beauty

I think Steph says something very wise in this post. She basically says that discrimination is everywhere, from people who don’t live with disabilities, but disability does not discriminate.

Sure, it’s easy to live in fear and denial. Believe me, I am extremely familiar with these things in my own life.

Fear keeps the public from wanting to take too close a look. If society keeps people with disabilities kept separate in their own schools and clubs and then, even worse, hidden away at home, they won’t have to deal with the fact that we do exist and deserve to have all the same opportunities for work and life.

However, the denial that goes along with this won’t protect them when disability comes into their own lives.

Laws are important and all well and good, but perceptions are a little more difficult to control this way.

You’d have to really get out there, to ask people what their true feelings are on disability, to follow them through their daily lives to see how they might react to certain situations.

I perceive myself one way, but I can’t control how other people will perceive me.

I will still continue trying to make strides in this arena though because it matters.

I do believe things have improved, in the thirty years since I was born – don’t get me wrong.

See, I can be optimistic. It’s just a little more complicated than that.

Sure, I get angry. I grow frustrated that the public just doesn’t understand, but I am very willing to keep the dialogue going.

Anger can work for you. It has propelled some of us in positive ways.

We do progress, as a species, even if we backslide now and again.

I do not downplay or discount all I have mentioned above, all that has been put in place since I was born thirty-one years ago. I even like to think it was, partly thanks to my appearance on the scene, that these leaps forward were made.

🙂

Too presumptuous? Okay, perhaps.

But in and amongst the frustration and the fear, I do have hope. Most people in the public are curious and kind. They don’t purposefully go out of their way to put up roadblocks for those of us with disabilities. It’s just that we need more than pity or good intentions. We need awareness and action.

I will admit, I’m not the first person to know all about public policies and government initiatives, but I do know about what it’s really like to live with a disability, in a world where I am in the minority.

The public does want to move beyond the fear and the denial; or at least, that is what I tell myself.

We must focus on what we can do, disabled or not, instead of what we can’t.

***

What can I do to help this process along? I ask you, the public!

Public…are you there?

(Crickets.)

🙂

Hmmm. Awkward!

Well, in the meantime…check out:

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge on Facebook

And maybe fifty years from now we won’t need to have a Facebook page at all. Maybe disability won’t be such a big deal any longer. Or, maybe, awareness will always be a necessary and an important thing? What do you think?

Next week’s question is a variation on this weeks’:

How has your perception of disability changed in your lifetime?

Oh, how indeed.

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7 thoughts on “Patience With Public Perception

  1. Some very interesting thoughts Kerry. This sentence particularly struck me: “Fear keeps the public from wanting to take too close a look.” Fear keeps most of us from taking too close a look at so much, not just at disability. Fear drives prejudices, makes us stay silent and hide, keeps us following convention when sometimes we need to challenge it. I’m a lot older than you, and let fear rule my life for far too long. I still feel fear, but now I’m more likely not to let it stop me.
    I was struck as I was reading your post that you could have been writing about almost any issue – eg homelessness, the poor or mental health – and that what we (western societies) need is perhaps a sense of obligation to all our citizens regardless of the condition of their body or mind. I’m thinking of obligation in the sense of shared responsibility and awareness. (Does that make sense? I’m not sure if I’ve explained it well.) Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  2. Fear drives so many ills of society. We fear that which we do not understand, that which is unfamiliar to us. It only takes a little bit of effort to resolve that fear and make great change. What we need is more people who are not afraid to move past it.

  3. Pingback: The Reality of My Own Perception, Or Something Like It | Her Headache

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