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Attitudes to Disability

Why do we feel awkward around the subject disability?

Research suggests that many people still feel awkward around the subject of disability; some people will even avoid interacting with a person who has a disability.

In recent times various steps have been taken to increase awareness around the subject of disability and equality of opportunity. Last July the Prime Minister launched the Disability Confident Campaign in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions and leading employers. The campaign aimed to make employers more confident about employing an individual with a disability and remove some of the barriers.

In 2010 the Equality Act came into force which was in essence intended to simplify legislation. Yet a climate of fear still exists around the topic of disability. Having lived with a disability myself for over thirty years I have experienced the “look of panic” that you can sometimes see on a person’s face when they first notice that you have a disability on many occasions.

I have learnt to live with and deal with the wide range of reactions and responses that I experience in regards to my disability. My approach is one of openness and honesty; if I meet a person who has a question about what is like to live with a disability or is simply wanting to gain an understanding I am more than happy to answer your questions. However I do recognise that this approach might not suit every individual with a disability.

During the summer of 2012 we had the biggest spotlight to have been shone on the subject disability during my lifetime. Yet almost two years since the Paralympic Games took place in London has anything really changed?

Leading disability charity Scope has reported that two thirds of the Great British Public find it difficult to speak to people with a disability*. This difficulty is often driven by a fear of saying something offensive or not wanting to do the “wrong thing”.

To me advertising campaigns such as the “End the awkward” campaign being launched by Scope are a great way of stimulating conversation and awareness – But we need to understand the root cause.

I believe that education is the key and the mechanism for change. We need to educate people about the meaning of disability and challenge perceptions and stereotypes. If the situation is going to be any different in another 30 years then we need to look at education and awareness. Disability awareness should in my view form part of the National Curriculum at all levels.

We live in an age where many people say that political correctness has gone made and I often hear the phrase “You can’t say anything these days”. When we consider the issue of disability in particular we need to remove this barrier and belief that it is better to say nothing at all than to even try to engage with someone.

At the centre of this belief or fear we need to remember that everyone is a person. Any individual is entitled to respect and should feel comfortable in all aspects of their lives without feeling awkward.

Watch the video below to find out more about how we help people to have a greater understanding of disability.

*Current Attitudes towards disabled people report by Scope