One time I was scrolling through the internet and came across an interesting feature on a lady called Haben Girma. She is the first deafblind person to graduate from Havard law school and is now a disability rights advocate. What I like the most about her is her belief that disability is an opportunity for innovation, and she has made it her life purpose to teach organizations the importance of choosing inclusion. Go read about her and you will understand how important disability inclusion is to the world.
This simply refers to making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires by including people with disabilities in everyday activities and encouraging them to have roles similar to their peers who do not have a disability .
Disabled persons are entitled to have their special needs taken into consideration at all stages of economic and social planning. This does not only stop at policy makers but each on of us from content creators to the different service providers in our community. How inclusive and mindful are we to these people. It is advocacy week here at #WinterABC2021 and am here to highlight some simple ways each one of us can be inclusive of persons living with disabilities in the simplest of ways.
- Content creators
97% of websites have access barriers according a report by United Nations and these digital barriers create an information famine, limiting employment and educational opportunities for people living with disabilities around the world and yet there is technology that exists to render digital information accessible to them. To bring this into perspective, I can give an example; blind individuals can use a software called screen readers that allow the content of websites, apps, and documents to be read aloud or be displayed in Braille on a connected Braille device; Captioning on videos will provide deaf viewers access to audio content. This is to content creators that programming for accessibility will allow a greater number of people to access your videos, webpages, articles, apps, and other information.
If you are wondering how this is meant to happen, I am happy to inform you that guidelines exist to help you make your information accessible. There are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in place which are a set of technical standards for making websites accessible. Developers can refer to the iOS and Android accessibility guidelines to design accessible mobile apps . Programming for accessibility generally does not change the appearance of websites and apps.
If you an employer, you may want to consider the value of a person with a disability joining your team. This will not only reduce turnover costs, increase productivity, but also strengthen your company’s corporate culture. Studies still show that 1 in 5 persons living with disabilities are employed. Many of these persons are judged from the word go instead of identifying their strengths and capitalizing on those. You will be amazed at what a person is capable of doing but this is not possible if they are not given the chance.
A good example for this can be seen in a medical drama called The Good Doctor. The series follows Shaun Murphy, a young autistic surgeon with savant syndrome who relocates to work at the prestigious San Jose St. Bonaventure hospital but has to prove beyond all odds that he has what it takes to preserve life as a doctor despite his condition amidst doubts and ridicule from his colleagues. If you have not watched, it is not too late, it has only 4 seasons so you can catch up.
- Make spaces accessible
This goes to all public areas including offices, restaurants, churches, event planners name it, please plan to see that your space and or venue for an event or provision of a service takes into account people with both physical and intellectual differences. This can be as simple as putting in place screens which can rely information for those with hearing differences through screens that have captions or making a sensory-friendly space to cater for those who are easily overstimulated due to conditions such as autism and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Does the venue cater for easy access of people in wheel chairs or do you want to be greeted with a scene of a wheel chair stuck in the terrace?
- Learning institutions
Our overall cultural consciousness on how we treat and interact with disability ought to change, right from elementary schools. There is need to celebrate our peers for their differences and if this is taught at a young age, less discrimination and more social inclusion is bound to occur. Having children, both the able bodied and those living with disabilities learn side-by-side helps everybody appreciate the talents and gifts all children bring with them. It is our duty to promote the inclusion of our differences.
In addition how about we included disability history in the school curriculum. My question is how can a person living with a disability acknowledge and identify with his/her history if it’s not widely taught? How can the community be embraced if their civic background is never taught? Tell me one school here in Uganda that has a discipline on disability being taught. I think it is time as scholars to rethink our curriculum in that line.
Disabled or able-bodied, we all have the power and responsibility to make society more inclusive for everyone. Inclusion leads to increased participation in socially expected life roles and activities such as being a child, student, worker, friend, community member, patient, spouse, partner, or parent.
Let us always remember that disability inclusion means understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society, and making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires. We all can do it beginning right from your area of influence.
Let us meet again tomorrow as we wrap up the Advocacy week.