Imagine if every person acted out the call of this year’s theme of the International Day for People with Disability and worked to “break down barriers”.
Imagine if we understood some of the greatest barriers facing people with disability are social and can therefore be broken down attitude by attitude, person by person.
Imagine if we removed the word “disability” from our vocabulary because “person” is the only descriptor that matters.
Imagine if every business, amenity and community facility was designed to accommodate people using wheelchairs.
Imagine if every restaurant had a Braille menu and catered for people who need soft food which is easy to swallow.
Imagine if people didn’t tell me how clever I was for doing the everyday things like working and talking and knowing the date and using a phone just because I’m blind.
Imagine if people with disability didn’t have to sign forms and jump through hoops and share intrusive, personal details with strangers in order to access the equipment, technology and assistance they require.
Imagine if you acquired a disability tomorrow.
Imagine if you were me.
Imagine if I were you.
Imagine if one in five people were not seen as “other” and “different” and “special” but were given what they needed to live life as they choose.
Imagine if I didn’t have to make you feel comfortable.
Imagine if, when you meet a person with a disability and are unsure what to do or what is expected of you, you focused on what you have in common as people and not on the person’s disability.
Imagine if I felt comfortable to fail rather than feeling the constant need to prove my equality and capacity and right to do the everyday things that others take for granted.
Imagine if I didn’t have to have a strategy around telling my prospective employer that I have a disability.
Imagine if every person could get up when they wanted to, have a shower when they wanted to, get to work when they needed to, access transport as readily as their non-disabled peers.
Imagine if we had all read the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and it was the basis for all decisions and actions affecting people with disability.
Imagine if you were a person with a disability who couldn’t speak and you lashed out at me by punching and biting and I considered your actions as a call for help and worked with you to find out the cause of your distress and frustration. What could happen if I perceive your negative actions as more than “behaviours”, requiring restraints and medications?
Imagine if I had nothing left to ask of my community in terms of accommodating my disability and could get on with the important things in life.
Catherine Mahony represents Community Disability Alliance Hunter, a user-led organisation run by and for people with disability.