by Stacey Christie
Have you ever gone to a restaurant but couldn’t go inside? Everyone else can but not you – because there’s no wheelchair access.
Have you ever gone out to lunch with your friends and been ignored by the waiter? Instead, the waiter asks your friends what YOU would like to order – because they assume you can’t talk.
People with disability face exclusion like this every day. These types of physical and social barriers are often isolating and stop people with disability fully participating in society.
What’s frustrating is that the barriers people with disability face are not usually there to intentionally exclude us, even though that is the outcome. Instead, they come from ignorance or a lack of understanding.
Studies have shown that people who are included in their communities are happier overall, so we’re sharing five ways to be more inclusive this International Day of Happiness!
Five ways to be more inclusive:
1. DON’T make assumptions
This applies to most situations; for example, don’t forgo inviting your disabled friends to a party because you assume they won’t be able to dance or join in. It’s always best to invite them and make it their decision.
2. DO plan for accessibility
Whenever you’re planning an event or party make sure you consider accessibility. Don’t automatically assume venues are accessible.
And, if you’re going to open a store, restaurant or any public venue make sure you accommodate people with disability. One of the easiest ways to do this is through universal design.
By making a venue accessible for people with disability you make it accessible for EVERYONE.
3. DO talk to people with disability directly
Talk to people with disability directly, not our friends, family or work colleagues (and don’t use a baby voice when you speak to us!)
PS. Don’t automatically assume that people hanging out with us are our carers – we do have friends!
4. DO listen
People with disability are their own best advocates! Ask if you’re unsure about someone’s access needs and listen when they tell you.
5. DO use the correct language
When you talk about someone with a disability don’t say they “suffer from” or are a “victim” of their disability. Also, nobody who uses a wheelchair is “wheelchair-bound”.
People with disability are just people living our lives, and using negative language implies that others should feel sorry for us when that isn’t the case at all!
Being inclusive isn’t difficult but it makes a big difference to people with disability!
Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.