Despite the existence of countless local, national, and international Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs) around the world, too many of us are unable to find help and support within the disabled community. This sad reality heeds to change. The following 3 are suggestions about how we can build unity among ourselves.
- Acknowledge your Class Privilege, if You Have It
Disability is expensive, and, thus, wealthy members of the disabled community who can afford to meet the extra cost of living with disabilities have experiences that differ from those without as much means. Unfortunately, affluent members of the disabled community tend to deny their privilege and shun members of the disabled community living in reduced circumstances.
If you are a disabled person who was born with a silver spoon, stop telling us how you have earned what you have. An upper-middle-class special needs parent with the wherewithal to avail quality education to their child should not hector low-income special-needs parents for not doing the same. Also, if you are an employed disabled adult, don’t imagine that you are the only one who works hard.
- Even if you are disabled or related to someone with a disability, you still need to work on your disability etiquette
Disability etiquette is treating individuals with disabilities as full complete humans. It includes speaking to disabled people directly, trusting them to make decisions that are in their best interest, and not staring at someone with a disability. Too often, the disabled community (including our families) demands respect from the non-disabled community, but fail to honor the dignity of disabled people themselves.
Being a member of the disabled community does not make you an expert on disability, and neither does it permit you to be offensive to people with disabilities. Some time ago, I got into a heated exchange with special needs parents who repeatedly referred to individuals with disabilities as cripples. They argued that having raised disabled children, they had a right to refer to disabled persons as they wished. Such reasoning is detrimental to our efforts to build unity in the disabled community.
- Embrace other solutions to reducing inequality in addition to disability affirmative action.
Disability affirmative action refers to programs that give preferential treatment to individuals with disabilities as a way of eliminating the inequality that has resulted from historical marginalization. Sadly though, despite the good intentions behind such programs, they tend to benefit those who are already more fortunate and reduces everyone else to a faceless, nameless community member. There is a general feeling within the disabled community that there are not enough opportunities to go round that leads to the envy of those who have benefited from disability affirmative action programs.
As a way of enhancing unity within the disabled community, we need to embrace other good alternatives to affirmative action. These include taking steps to reduce the educational opportunity gaps that heavily impact the disabled community. It is an indisputable fact that the more education one has, the more they are likely to earn. Thus, increasing access to quality education for people with disabilities would increase the number of people with disabilities in positions of influence and raise the level of trust in their leadership.
These are just a few ways to build unity within the disabled community. Do you have any others to add? Let us know in the comments.