Sometimes people can be uncomfortable in the presence of a person with a disability because they’re not sure how to act or what to say. Interactions might feel awkward or forced, but they don’t need to be. Being inclusive is pretty straightforward, and everyone benefits when our communities are truly inclusive.
Mosaic CEO Pippa Cebis said disability comes in many shapes and forms and is not always visible.
“Some people are born with a disability, others acquire one, often after an accident. Not all disabilities can be seen; many are ‘invisible,’ such as psychosocial disability or early onset dementia,” Ms. Cebis said.
“Regardless of the type of disability a person may have, there’s nothing for anyone to be afraid of. A person with a disability has the same human rights as anyone else… so why would you talk down to them, ignore them, or treat them like a stereotype? When our communities are diverse and inclusive, everyone is treated with respect and support to live the life they want to live.”
Here are six simple ways to make our community more inclusive for people with a disability.
1. Speak directly to a person with a disability
“When you meet a person with a disability who is accompanied by someone else, talk directly to them if you are conversing or asking a question. If you ignore them and speak to their friend, carer, Disability Support Worker, or anyone else, it’s the opposite of inclusion… and disrespectful,” Ms. Cebis said.
“And don’t assume that a person with a disability is not their decision maker. Assumptions like this are disempowering and often wrong.”
2. Avoid stereotypes
Sometimes people think that everyone who has a disability shares similar experiences, but the reality is that they represent a diverse group of individuals, each with their own unique story.
“It’s important to avoid stereotypes because they can be harmful and often wildly inaccurate. A person with a disability is an individual,” Ms. Cebis said.
3. Always ask before giving assistance
“Just because a person has a disability doesn’t automatically mean that they need or want your help. Even when your actions are very well meant, leaping in and assuming that they need your assistance can convey that you think the person is less capable of doing whatever they are doing than you are. You are removing choice and taking away control. No one likes to feel disempowered or less than someone else,” Ms. Cebis said.
4. Actively engage with people with disability
People living with disability are a part of our community and should be treated as such. Everyone – including those living with a disability – needs to feel seen and heard, and valued. We can do this by actively engaging with individuals respectfully and without making assumptions.
5. Do your part to make our community accessible
In a café? Ask the person in a wheelchair trying to get through if you can move that chair for them and pick up your backpack from the floor, where it may get in the way of the wheels.
6. Talk to your kids about disability
Talk openly to children about disability to break down stereotypes and incorrect assumptions. This is important because an inclusive community that truly values diversity starts with children as they grow into adults.
“We want to introduce, influence, and secure positive long-term changes in society, to remove barriers and tackle discriminatory practices to ensure the rights, interests, and well-being of people with disabilities are achieved, upheld, and protected,” Ms. Cebis said.
“We should live in a community where all people have a full and valued life with the freedom to make their own choices.”
Mosaic has supported people with disability and their families since 1992. Visit the website to find out more.