My journey to equality
Over the years, my personal opinions of disability have changed and developed as I, along with my experiences have done the same. As a teenager, I believed and adhered to the medical model of disability; believing that disability was the problem of mine and mine alone. As a result, I had to be grateful when the environment around me was accessible and had adaptions that would fit my needs. I thanked people when they included me in conversation and I apologised when I was “in the way”. I was undervaluing myself. I believed that I was a lesser person because of my impairment.
I don’t believe this anymore. As I grew older and developed my experiences and knowledge of the world around me, I came to understand that like every other disabled person, I was entitled to live a life that was mine. A life that I chose for myself and that was not diminished by lack of privileges that other people took for granted.
I understood that I, like all other disabled people, am of value and that my personal experiences, likes and dislikes only enriched the businesses that I worked for and spent money in.
Attitude is everything
My attitude and the attitudes of others had a lot to do with how I felt about myself and my value to the world. Due to my opinion of my disability, I did not challenge when a situation was designed in a way that made it hard for me to feel included. As I didn’t challenge, nobody else did. My mother was consistently battling for inclusion on my behalf. However, as a teenager, this only succeeded in embarrassing me. So while she was fighting for my inclusion in school, college, youth clubs, etc, I was contradicting her at most, if not every stage.
I was the easier voice to listen to and so it gave the institution of exclusion a “get out clause”.
Business miss a trick
As there were so many things that I could not participate in due to lack of accessibility and awareness from others, I missed out on a lot of events. Events that if they were accessible and inclusive, would have attracted not only myself but my friends and (begrudgingly because of my age) my mother.
The events that I could attend were often limited by the barriers that were blocking my path. On occasions, I could only stay for half the party, as the accessible taxis would stop running at a certain time. My mother would come to theme parks with my friends and I because the service at the theme park was not designed to support somebody with access needs.
I’m making my teen years sound as if they were doom and gloom. They weren’t. The point is that everything I did was rarely without a plan, a challenge or a compromise in order to enjoy the same advantages as my peers.
Now what would life have been like if I hadn’t had to do any of that? If my mother hadn’t had to challenge every time her daughter wanted to participate?
Well, apart from fewer arguments in the Hardy house, less time and energy would have been taken up on the needless task of fighting for inclusion and more time would have been spent on the doing. This in turn, would have allowed more time for spending, learning and experiencing. All of these things obviously cost money. Money which would have been spent on businesses that offered the activities that I wanted to participate in. Businesses like;
Bars (obviously when I was of appropriate age)
And so on…….
Inclusion isn’t just valuable for disabled people. It’s valuable for wellbeing. It’s valuable for society. It’s valuable for business.
My question to you is this:
What can your business do to ensure that everyone regardless of ability or disability can feel included?
Esi set up Celebrating Disability in 2017; offering training, consulting and auditing to support businesses attract, engage and retain disabled people. Having the opportunity to support businesses to see the wealth of benefits that disabled people can bring to business, either as customers or employees is a privilege. She is passionate about disability equality and inclusion and loves nothing more than that “Ah ha” moment with a client when they see what disability equality and inclusion can do for them.