There are many different types of disabilities, and there is no single, cookie-cutter way to be disabled or experience life as a person with a disability. However, one thing is for certain – society and life in general present similar challenges to disabled individuals. While our modern world has grown to be more accessible and open than it was in the past, it still presents some fundamental issues in terms of disabilities and equality we need to be aware of.
Disabilities and misunderstandings
It’s not easy living with a disability in this world. Most disabled persons simply wish to live a regular life, not considering themselves any different from others. But society doesn’t always see it that way. It’s nearly impossible to leave your home without experiencing unwanted stares, inappropriate comments, and intrusive questions about disabilities. These situations are difficult to explain and often misunderstood, not to mention that explanations aren’t obligatory in any way. But unless society changes how it views disabilities, stigmatization will only lead to further isolation, loneliness, and physical and mental health complications.
Lack of accessible opportunities
While laws such as requiring accessible entrances to buildings and preventing discrimination against people with disabilities were all steps in the right direction, progress drastically slowed down after this period. The truth is that the world simply isn’t as accessible as it can and should be. A ramp and an automatic front door can’t make up for the lack of elevators in the buildings preventing disabled persons from navigating specific locations. As rules change and companies are required to make necessary accommodations for disabled employees, many companies are also unwilling to make that financial investment, but face no legal repercussions for their actions. These common issues prevent many disabled individuals from finding a suitable job or completing school, even as remote opportunities rise.
Preventing social isolation
Although harmful, the societal stigmatization combined with the lack of opportunities to live a regular life continues to increase the levels of social isolation among disabled persons. Fortunately, the number of possible solutions to this issue is rising. For instance, supported independent living homes are gaining popularity, and for good reason. In this shared living accommodation, disabled individuals have the opportunity to live independently in a safe and supportive environment, engage in social activities, be a part of an accepting community, and achieve their goals, all while having access to the support they need. This is one of many options currently battling social isolation, but it has proved to be particularly effective.
Police brutality and disabilities
With education being poor and stigmatization rising, disabled individuals may even face danger from those who are supposed to protect them. In fact, many disabled individuals have reported that they experienced police brutality, and a number of law enforcement agencies have recognized their lack of disability awareness and training. However, there’s still no substantial official data regarding people with disabilities and police brutality in most countries around the world. This is a shocking statement. As a society, we should be ashamed that altercations with police aren’t being tracked and that law enforcement isn’t being held accountable. More importantly, we should ask ourselves why we don’t view this as such a major issue.
Increase in disability representation
Thankfully, not everything is gloomy. Social media has given a unique opportunity for people with disabilities to voice their opinions and concerns in a way that ensures a wide outreach. This has helped to raise awareness and educate a significant percentage of the population, especially younger generations. Activism is rising, and disability representation is slowly increasing. We are seeing more representation in movies and TV shows, the modeling industry, billboards and websites, and other forms of mainstream media. Social inclusion and disability history are also appearing in schools, while the political setting is seeing more disability representation. As representation rises, stigmatization will hopefully decrease.
What we can do as a society
As a society, we must work to ensure inclusion and equality. Education, activism, and awareness only go so far; the truth is that the systems we are living in today are fundamentally flawed. In order to make sure every member of our society has equal opportunities, principal changes will have to be made. This means voting for elected officials who are open, inclusive, and who will make actionable decisions to achieve equality. If we have the opportunity to make an impact individually, such as by being business owners or leaders of organizations, we can take transformative actions as well. Every step in the right direction is new hope for a better future.
Even though society has evolved, the modern world is still flawed. We need to empower ourselves, raise our voices, and challenge others to make sure this world is a more equal, accepting, and better place for persons with disabilities.