The awareness and interest dawn on me on a person with disability, when we had our first webinar which was facilitated by Dhidhak Bandalan, on the topic entitled Inclusion to leave no one behind: Disability, Gender and Age. She shared and I quote, “that in order to leave no one behind, humanitarian and development actions need to take widespread discrimination on the grounds of disability, gender and age into account, and proactively engage in removing barriers to equal opportunities”

It taught me that when we say “Inclusive” we are not creating a division or to treat them special because they are different.  Inclusive is treating them with who they are, and ensuring that all public spaces, in school or at home are accessible with person with disability, with how we want it to be – accessible, safe and convenient.

“If you really want change, you really want it to be inclusive, where everyone’s included, otherwise you’re just going to have more of the same in the future.” – will.i.am

Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

I think, we need a common language to guide us create awareness and understanding. After the webinar we had last 2020 with Dhidhak. I dig deeper and hope what else I can contribute to bring awareness to my community about person with disability.

I invited two women whom they themselves are a person with disability: Marta A. Villafañe (watch her presentation on Interaction with Person with Disabilities) and Carmen Reyes Zubiaga (watch her presentation on The right to Social and Economic Activities of Persons with Disabilities)

These are women who are living example that those who has disability can be a person of influence and inspiration.

During our webinar, never it came to my mind about their situation especially during this pandemic.  We talked about “facemask” how a person who are deaf or have hearing loss will have difficulty of read lips. If the company has a mindset of “inclusive” they should have consider producing facemask for person with disability.

Before, I only care about my rights. But after learning from a person with disability, I think the most valuable contribution that I can make is a realization of a “shame ignorance” that people with disabilities exist and living. How may they be physically but they are still part of the community.

I did not grow up with disability, but I felt that within me I am disabled for not knowing how to appropriately interact with them, looking at them pity or feel sorry for them.

I learned that they are courageous, hopeful and has dreams. They don’t need my pity; they need my respect and treat them the right way.

I also need to change my attitude as how I viewed them. They are no longer an object of charity but a subject with rights. A right to participate, accessibility, engage in interactions and enjoy the same service as a person without a disability.

“Abled does not mean enabled. Disabled does not mean less abled.” ― Khang Kijarro Nguyen

Here are some ideas, and my learnings during my conversation with person with disability on how we can better support them:

1. Be a good advocate for person with disability – support a person or a group to speaks on behalf of people who are incapable of speaking up for themselves.  This will develop their confidence and enable them to get their voices heard.

Being an advocate is more influential for equality and participation especially for people with learning disabilities.

If you are a family living with a person with disability, as an advocate consider to focus on the person’s needs, best interest, their own safety and good.

2. Be a connector not a divider – you should be a “safe person” around a person with disability.  They are unique and we should acknowledge their differences. Treat them as normal, they are human too.  Sometimes our ignorance can cause us a divider.  When we are not sure how to interact or offer an assistance, ask him/her first. I learned, not because someone has disability that does mean they need help. Of course, if there is danger, help as how you help someone in need. Make sure to speak directly to the person with disability, not to their companion, talk to them like anyone else.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” – Saul Bellow

To properly address them:

“Person with a disability”

“Person with Autism”

“Person who uses Wheelchair”

“Person who has down syndrome”

“Person who has cerebral palsy”

“Person with a learning disability”

“Person who is Deaf”

“Person who is hard of hearing”

With any disability, avoid disempowering words like:

“victim” or “sufferer”

“handicapped”

“crippled”

“retarded”

“disabled”

3. Be respectful on their mobility equipment (wheelchair, scooter or cane) – person with disability consider their equipment part of their personal space. Show respect by not touching or moving it without their permission.

4. Be prepared for any disaster – if you are a family or caregiver who are living with person with disability you should know what to do when there is a sudden disaster especially if you are living in a prone disaster area.

Prepare a quick run bag that has basic supplies (bottled water, food, flashlight etc), medical supplies, emergency documents (cash, prescription etc), other items like medical alert tags or bracelet, extra batteries for hearing aid, extra eye glasses etc.)

Plan ahead where you will go by choosing several destinations in different direction for safety.  Identify a friend, relative who are not in your area to be your support and can be contacted during emergency (watch Mark Padil on Disaster Preparedness for Families living with Autism and to the Differently-Abled Community)

“Remember: When disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed” – Steven Cyros

5. Be visible – the accessibility in public places, offices, hotels or at home is our way of showing them that they are welcome.  Use verbal description, along with symbols as signage for the service they can use and place it where is most visible.

Disability access symbols are: Access to low vision, The symbol of Accessibility, Sign Language Interpretation, Audio description for TV, Video and Film, Telephone Typewriter, Volume Control Telephone, Live Audio Description, Accessible Print and The Info.

Like you and me, a person with disability has family, dreams, problems, joy and hobbies. Let us treat them as individuals.

originally published at https://www.worldpulse.com on November 14, 2021