An inclusive world is a world in which disabled people have access to the same opportunities in every aspect of life that everyone else has.
While disability is broad and there are many definitions of disability, according to the World Health Organisation:
Disability is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. Impairments are problems in body functions or structures while activity limitations are difficulties encountered by an individual in executing tasks or actions. Problems experienced by an individual in life situations are called participation restrictions.
This means disability is more than having a problem in body functions, it is the functional limitation a person with an impairment experiences when they interact with an inaccessible society which is designed to favour non-disabled people.
Currently, no country in the world, not even the most progressive countries, have equal rights, equal opportunities and equal standards of living for disabled people as their non-disabled counterparts. This is unacceptable.
The Netherlands, for example, ranks at the top of Gallup’s 2010 Global Perceptions of People With Intellectual Disabilities, yet, despite their many facilities for disabled people, The Netherlands is not an inclusive society – facilities for disabled people are separate and not integrated into everyday facilities and services (Source: Dutch REVIEW).
The average person holds misconceptions about disabilities and living with disabilities. Many countries do not actively enforce their disability policies or international disability rights laws, and do not have marriage equality for disabled people (in many countries, disabled people risk losing disability support when they marry). Many disabled people are unemployed or underemployed, and are not able to live independently because society is not designed to include disabled people and to ensure that they can move around and do tasks independently.
The social model of disability is the idea that societal barriers like ignorance, negative attitudes and inaccessible structures of society are more disabling than a person’s actual impairment. This means that if we can tackle the ignorance, negative attitudes and inaccessibility in society, disabled people would be more able to live fuller and happier lives.
We should also be actively working towards a world that is inclusive of disabled people and this is why:
1. There is a large population of disabled people.
The population of disabled people is large – according to the World Health Organisation, over one billion people (15% of the world’s population) live with some form of disability.
Disabled people are actually the largest minority group, and it does not make sense, nor is it ethical to exclude a large percentage of the world’s population. Disabled people should be considered in every policy, every law, any plan that involves people, and not as an afterthought.
Disabled people deserve equal rights, equal opportunities and equal quality of life because we all deserve to live fair, full and happy lives.
2. You or your loved ones can become disabled.
Even if you don’t particularly care about strangers, you should care about working towards a world that’s inclusive and accommodating of disabled people because if you aren’t already disabled or know anyone who is, chances are it’s only a matter of time till you do.
This is because anyone can become temporarily or permanently disabled. Most disabilities are acquired, meaning they occur after birth – through illness, accidents or ageing. In fact, over 46 per cent of people aged 60 years+ have a disability. Most people end their lives with a disability, often a form of mobility impairment. Furthermore, anyone can acquire a temporary disability such as a broken arm or leg.
Another thing a lot of people don’t consider is that they may have a disabled child. When most people picture their future children, they picture them as nondisabled. This is partly due to ableism (discrimination in favour of nondisabled people), and partly due to wanting the best for our children – because we know that the world is cruel to disabled people, and we do not wish that cruelty for our children. But consider this – if the world were inclusive and accommodating of disabled people, their lives within society could be on par with the lives of non-disabled people. So if you don’t care about disabled strangers, think about yourself and your loved ones. Everyone deserves to be included.
3. Disability is a justice and activist issue.
Disability is a justice issue because disabled people do not currently have the same rights, opportunities and quality of life as non-disabled people. Disability is a feminist issue because disability intersects with gender and other marginalised identities a person holds, resulting in the compounding of the oppression faced by people with multiple marginisalised identities.
Within every group of people who are facing severe hardships in life, there are disabled people facing even more severe hardships. Some examples are people born in developing countries, people born in countries going through violent conflict, LGBTQIA+ people, religious minorities, people of low socio-economic backgrounds, etc. Ignoring how disability impacts oppression and hardships means that these issues will not be thoroughly considered and resolved because policies and strategies will leave out the worst affected section of the population.
If you care about justice you should be working towards a world that is inclusive and accommodating of disabled people. If you consider yourself a feminist, you should be working towards a world that is inclusive and accommodating of disabled people.
We all have the power to make the world even a little better for disabled people and we should do our part, because everyone deserves a fair, full and happy life.