Disability is a condition identified as a significant impairment of the usual functions of an individual. People with disabilities are individuals whose body functioning is not healthy due to various impairments. The condition is conceptualized as being multidimensional given that there might be effects on the organs or the body parts that affect his or her participation in certain areas of life. The fact that the disabled persons do not function has typically made the normal individuals seek to isolate them from public spaces because they feel that they are lesser and different creatures. The practice of discriminating against the disabled persons and denying them easy access to the public places and services has become a significant concern with the interested parties seeking to find out why the disabled persons are facing public exclusion. In a country that has achieved a lot of progress in ensuring equality for the marginalized people in recent years, it is disappointing that those people with disabilities are shunned from having access to public spaces on a daily basis.
Whether it is the poor design of the majority of the public spaces such as toilets and public areas that make the necessary activities harder for the disabled individuals, or the impatience and dismissive attitude displayed by those ordinary people, exclusion comes in various forms for the disabled persons. What makes a public place different from a private area is the fact that it is meant to be accessible for everyone. One can, therefore, introduce the concept of equality although the main question we need to ourselves is why we are unwilling to accommodate the disabled persons in the public spaces without making them feel different or useless. One of my friends is visually impaired, and in most instances, she complains of inaccessibility in the public places when she is alone. For example, the lack of large prints in the restaurant menus, little or no ravels assistance when boarding the trains, lack of lifts in the tube stations as well as books that are not published to meet the needs of the visually impaired are some of the things that frustrate her whenever she needs to use the public spaces.
It is a shame that people do not care about the capabilities of the disabled persons. For a long time, the disabled people have been labeled as “deviant” or “other.” Their position in society has been affected by the continuous production and perpetuation of the cultural representations and cultural myths which view them as inferior or abnormal people. The disabled people, regardless of their impairment are often labeled as developmentally disabled individuals who cannot function on their own. However, none of these assumptions are valid since the disabled people have proved to be strong and independent persons whose only mistake is their inability to perform all the functions or be the same as the non-disabled people. Have we not seen persons with disability excel in business, education and even sports? Of course, we have even though we choose to ignore this fact to justify the public exclusion accorded to this category.
In the story The Mountain by Eli Claire, the author voices out her frustrations of not being able to be seen as a reasonable person with ambition and dreams. As it states, “To them, I was not just another hopelessly slow, tenacious high school athlete, but super crip, a brave girl with CP, courageous cripple. It sucked” (Eli 13). The author feels dejected because no one is trying to support her dream of becoming an athlete, just like the other healthy kids. Instead, people are praising her on the audacity she has to showcase her disability in front of them when deep down they are laughing at her for not being able to be like them.
It should, however, be noted that people with disabilities also discriminate against themselves. I believe that the people considered disabled have developed some sort of disability hierarchy which segregates the disabled based on the type of disability they suffer from. Just like we have racial segregation among people, the disabled individuals, be it those that belong to the LGBTQ community or those with various physical deformities, have also started discriminating against each other in what I can term as deciding which disability is more sophisticated or more generally acceptable to the public. For instance, the lesbians and gays are yet to accept the transgender and queer persons because they believe that their disability is humanmade whereas theirs is inherent. I overheard an argument between two lesbians at school whereas one of them told the other that she is not an actual lesbian since she had undergone a gender reassignment surgery. Susan writes of Filisa Vistima, a transgender woman who committed suicide because the LGBT community that she was supposed to identify with was not willing to accept her. “The Seattle Bisexual Women’s Network announced that if it admitted transsexuals, the SBWN would no longer be a women’s organization” (Susn 4).
Although most people pretend that they are adapting and can freely mingle with the lesbians, gays, transgender, bisexuals, and queers,(LGBTQ) the truth is that the same people view them as abnormal or disabled people because after all, their sexual preferences are not the normal ones dictated by the society. Although this is a bold statement, I derive my opinion from the fact that most individuals publicly support these people, but behind closed doors, they wish that none of their children or other family members adopt into this bad behavior. The above statement brings me to the question as to whether the LGBTQ society can be labeled as people with disabilities or not.
A lot can be done to change how disabled persons can have easy access to public spaces without feeling unwanted or having to be shoved around. Because of that, various legal instruments at the national and international levels aim to make sure that the vulnerable groups of people have easy access to the numerous public spaces on an equal basis just like the others. Just like the concept of inequality is an inbuilt idea, unequal treatment against persons with disabilities is carried out in the form of excluding them from the public space. But why are people not ready to share the open space although the disabled people can handle themselves and can no almost everything that the able persons can do?
I realize that the disabled people have always resisted the ill treatment from the society and they have done so by leading healthy lives, getting an education and joining the desired professions, getting married and having children, battling against the stereotypes and rejecting the normalizing treatments. If they have managed to do all that despite the various challenges, why can’t the normal persons treat them the way they would want to be treated? I believe that the dismissive attitude displayed by people towards the disabled is some act superiority complex involving the two groups. People are so used to being looked down upon, and vice versa that they have made it a habit of despising anyone they feel is below them with the hope of making themselves feel better. For instance, the gays or lesbians feel that they can share a public space with the transgendered persons or the queer ones because they think that they have no right to be included in the LGBTQ community. However, that is just an excuse for such people to vent out their frustrations on the more substantial part of society that has not accepted them.
Business owners in the public domain and other public organizations have failed to honor the pledges of ensuring equality for disabled persons. For instance, I have frequently visited establishments that advertise “accessible services,” in this case, meant for the disabled although they do not have functional bathrooms or fitting rooms. Having such an experience will undoubtedly make one feel like an inconvenience and a social reject that needs to spend most of his or her time isolated or confined to places that actually can ensure easy accessibility for people of their kind.
From the provided readings, disability stems beyond physical impairments, and in this era, anything considered a minority is vulnerable to receiving disability treatment. Therefore, the persons identifying with a specific disability need to come together as a group and fight for their rights as ordinary people with the capacity to have the best careers and best jobs. The plan to accommodate them in public places, however, requires them to stop segregating themselves by having different public places to hang out instead of mingling with the rest of society.
Public toilets are an essential facility for everyone although most of them are designed in a narrow manner preventing the disabled people from entering the toilets let alone use them independently. Although my school has spacious toilets for the disabled persons, I rarely see such rooms in most of the public shopping complexes I have visited. On the same note, the need for accessible toilets is not only meant for the disabled, but instead, they can serve pregnant women, the elderly and the children. Therefore, modification of some of these public spaces can be useful to the identified categories.
Changing the public perception of the disabled is also another way of making the public spaces inclusive and accessible to all. Researchers agree that disability is a social construct aimed at ensuring normalcy in the society. So, the labeling is a way of ensuring that the dominant characteristics in the community maintained. Therefore, people can decide to change the disability narrative and advocate for equality and freedom. If people have started accepting the LGBTQ community, then they can also learn to treat disabled persons as ordinary people who deserve respect and love.
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