We should look for opportunities and events that everyone can enjoy, despite their differences.
At times I feel that because I am a person with a disability, there’s a distance between myself and the people around me. My first barrier usually is the hardware, my assistive devices, because it is difficult to get close to someone for a friendly handshake or intimate hug from one’s wheelchair. I started thinking about how this barrier could be removed or the difficulty addressed. I figured that it should be approached from both a disability and a non-disability point of view. And I note that one’s attitude plays a big role in crossing this bridge. We need to be very accommodating when contemplating our position in our community.
It was fairly easy for me to reintegrate back into my family and community and place of employment because of the accepting attitude of the people around me. But many people feel excluded from certain activities that they enjoyed participating in. But this should not be the case. We should join hands and embrace the diversity that each individual brings.
I feel that disability should have its own place among all the other concepts of diversity such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation and religion. Disability is an evolving concept and should be included in every new development. For too long, people with different disabilities have been simply overlooked, especially in the workplace. It does not have to take an exceptional person to be an ambassador; but society should create the space for disability to be incorporated in everything that we do. In our busy world we do need people to be considerate of persons with a disability and be creative in coming up with ways that facilitate participation in all activities.
Of course, there are certain limitations that will prevent complete or universal access to some activities. But much can be done: I can think of numerous facilities such as playgrounds, beaches and sporting venues that are accessible and include features that accommodate persons using assistive devices such as crutches, wheelchairs, canes and guide dogs. Some municipalities are delivering these types of integrated amenities, which is highly commendable; those who ignore the needs for them should be challenged and corrective action taken. Public transport still is a challenge for many, but at least there are some routes or modes of transport, such as Uber, that can accommodate everyone. It does take time for facilities and services to be put in place, and in the meanwhile we should stay positive, look out for one another and enjoy the one thing that we all share – life!
Raven Benny is the chairperson of QASA. He has been a C5, 6 and 7 quadriplegic since 2000. He is married with five children, is mad about wheelchair rugby and represented South Africa in 2003 and 2005. He also plays for Maties. email: email@example.com