3rd December is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is a day designed to celebrate and educate about how people with disabilities are valuable members of our world. The theme this year could not better illustrate how true this is.
Fighting for the rights in a post-Covid era really shines a light on the unique experience of people with disabilities within the collective experience the world has shared in the pandemic. Lockdowns, isolation and social distancing made the long term fight for visibility even more difficult for them. Likewise, the world benefited from the knowledge gained from years of providing access accommodations to people with disabilities when suddenly we needed to make home working and homeschooling a possibility.
Looking at the future of a post-covid world means reevaluation of resources to meet the needs of society. This is when we prove how dedicated we are to an equitable world where people with disabilities are seen, heard and provided with access to our world. We are now raising the generation that will decide how invested we really are in making the world free from discrimination. Here are some of the ways parents can instill the value of allyship with people with disabilities in their families.
Representation in Media
Make sure the books, movies and television your children consume contains representation of people with disabilities. Do you love the Olympics? Watch the paralympics as well. If your child watches Cbeebies, there are presenters and shows that provide good role models for representation. Have books that show the life experience of someone whose body works differently. Normalisation is key and this is achieved through representation.
Talk the Talk
There are so many turns of phrase that are a part of the common vernacular that are incredibly ableist. There are words that were once used to describe people with disabilities that are now used as insults or ways of saying someone is stupid or inept. Check in with yourself and your family when these phrases come up. Language is a living thing that changes all of the time. Just as we have eliminated words that discriminate against race, we need to check in with how our language needs to develop to become more inclusive of people with disabilities.
See the Whole Person
People with disabilities are often talked about in terms of what they ‘can’t’ do. The truth is that if they were the majority of the population, the world would be designed for their success. Non-disabled people simply benefit from the privilege of a life experience that is shared by the majority of the population. Make sure we show our children what a person can do. It’s not that a blind person can’t read. They read with their fingers. It’s not that a person in a wheelchair can’t walk. It’s that they move around using the wheelchair. It’s perfectly fine for children to acknowledge the differences. We just don’t need to add to that the idea that accessing the world differently makes a person less valuable.
As we learn and grow and make mistakes and learn and do better, our children are watching and learning how to make sense of the world. Being a role model who actively and intentionally stands up for the rights of people who are different from you will embed the value of allyship into the hearts and souls of our children. This is how the fight for an equitable world remains a priority in a post-Covid world.