Why Disability Awareness Matters to You and How You Can Make a Difference
About one in five Americans live with some form of disability. People with disabilities can live with vision, hearing or mental impairments. Some may have developmental disabilities. Others have physical disabilities.
Everyone with a disability is different. Every one is a unique person.
But many people without disabilities don’t realize this. Many lumps all people with disabilities into a category or stereotype. They think of them as people who can’t do certain things and will never live full lives.
Many think it’s a challenge they’ll never have to face.
If we look at the disability facts though, statistically, they might be wrong. More than 1 in 4 of people aged 20 will face some form of disability during their working years. While some may be due to accidents, most will be in the form of back injuries or illness. And while many may recover full functioning, others will not.
Given the large numbers of people with disabilities, it’s becoming more important for all of us to understand what it means to live with a disability. Or to care for a person with a disability or raise a child with one. Or, perhaps, to work with one.
The Biggest Barrier Faced by People with Disabilities
The biggest barrier faced by people with disabilities is not their disability. It’s the people around them. Many people feel fearful or uncomfortable around people with disabilities. So, they avoid them or limit interaction with them as much as possible.
By doing this, they allow themselves to continue to believe misconceptions and stereotypes about people with disabilities. They also never learn just what life is like for their friends, relatives, neighbors or co-workers who have disabilities, or what they are capable of doing.
Understanding the Laws Protecting People with Disabilities
Many laws prohibit discrimination based on disability. This means that workplaces, transportation, and public venues must be accessible to people with disabilities and that they cannot be discriminated against.
Raising Disability Awareness
If you’ve ever had a hard time getting yourself ready for work on time, imagine trying to do that if you can’t move your arms. Or have a serious visual disability. You’re still the same person you always were. You just can’t do the things you used to do.
Imagining yourself in the position of someone with a disability can go a long way toward understanding the challenges they face on a daily basis. Then you’ll get the idea that laws and complying with the letter of the law are not enough. What’s important is treating the person with a disability as a human being and not just a diagnosis or disability.
Part of disability awareness educates people about disability-related laws. It also helps people with disabilities and their families find ways to adjust to and overcome their disabilities, so they can have full and meaningful lives.
Understanding How to Relate to People with Disabilities
People with disabilities have the same human needs as anyone else. One of these is a need for relationship. The problem many of them face is that other people see them simply as a wheelchair or a disability.
Disability awareness helps people learn how to relate to people with disabilities. How to see them as complete people with interests, talents, and opinions. And how to include them as much as possible. You’d be amazed at how many activities people with disabilities can participate in.
How to Learn More About Disability Awareness
Take the time to educate yourself on disability. There are several awareness events:
- Disability Awareness Day July 16
- Disability Employment Awareness Month October
- Disability Awareness Week Late May-early June
These events are held to help raise awareness about the Americans with Disabilities Act and disability in general. You can get involved with these events or help organize one of your own locally.
Many agencies hold training or other courses, and a wealth of information is available online. Getting educated is the first step in learning how to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities, including your co-workers, your friends, and your relatives. Their lives will be fuller because of it, and yours will be as well