Many of you will have read Nathan’s blog for the Disabled Children’s Partnership and recently I was on their website and was surprised, no shocked, to see that 43% of people say they don’t know anyone with a disability. This statistic was taken from a report commissioned by the charity Scope, and since reading it I have been wondering why it is that so many people feel they don’t know someone with an impairment of some sort.
- Is it that people don’t realise they know someone with a disability because it is ‘invisible’?
- Is it because disabled people are still segregated due to a lack of access to the community and society?
- I wonder why, after so many years of campaigning, such a high percentage of people believe they don’t know anyone with a disability?
One of the reasons could be that people can’t always ‘see’ a disability. I know that my children have very visible disabilities, but for people like myself with a CHD, it is not always possible to tell. I’m sure there have been many points in my life; school, work, even as a mother, that people have had no idea that I have a complex cardiac condition. The same can be said for people with mental health issues and some people on the autistic spectrum and other disabilities such as diabetes, epilepsy, etc.
When you think about all the areas in your life when you meet, engage and get to know people – school, work, parenthood, social life – could it be that disabled people are still struggling to get the support they need in order to engage fully with society, and what can be done to rectify this problem?
- Education – for some children the right support at a mainstream school will enable them to continue and thrive there, not just cognitively but also socially and emotionally. For those children, for whom a specialist school is more appropriate wouldn’t it be wonderful if the scheme that happens in Cerys’ school – where a class from her school visits a class in a local first school every week, and at the end of term the class from Cerys’ school plays host – was rolled out across the education system? In my opinion, it would make such a difference to integration and acceptance.
- The right support to enable disabled students to attend college, and then on to university is also essential. I know the fact Nathan receives Disabled Student’s Allowance and Social Care Funding has been crucial to enabling him to access university.
- Work – is the Access to Work scheme working to enable disabled people to get into work? I don’t have any experience of that as yet but would be interested to hear other people’s views. Are people still hiding mental health issues and other ‘invisible’ disabilities for fear of being stigmatised?
- Parenthood – are parents with disabilities being given the support they need in order to allow them to take their children to playgrounds, schools and after school activities? I know that I would struggle without our Carers.
- Social Life – many people, with various disabilities, often need extra support to access any sort of social life. For my kids it is very much physical and personal care support, – allowing Cerys to go to Guides and the craft club – but for some people who struggle to leave the house on their own due to anxiety, having someone with them can make all the difference.
As always, there are no easy solutions, but I would like to think that eventually that statistic will be greatly reduced.
Obviously if you are someone who feels they don’t know anyone with a disability (unlikely if you’re reading this blog, but you never know!) there are various ways to change that. For example, you could volunteer with one of the many charities that support people with disabilities, but one of the main ways is the easiest way – just talk and engage with the people around you – you never know what their story might be!