As the first ever Global Disability Summit – organised by the Department for International Development – gets underway, we must remember that disabled people have to be at the heart of all positive change.
The sheer hypocrisy of having the UK Government host an event on disability following last year’s “human catastrophe” verdict by the UN is more significant than you may think.
With delegates discussing topics such as “tackling stigma and discrimination, inclusive education, technology and innovation” and looking to ways of implementing change, it’s important to consider the actions and attitudes which both underpin and hinder social progress.
At the centre of all this is media and political representation. Disabled people long for accurate portrayals in film and television of those with similar impairments to their own, devoid of the ‘inspiration porn’ and warped fascination that surrounds disability. In politics, decisions on benefits and support for disabled people stir up negative stereotypes, and in some cases, they aren’t even consulted on government changes.
Both of these issues combine to dramatically limit the power and voice of disabled people in society. Charities launch campaigns aimed at ‘ending the awkward’ around disability because the actions of politicians – supported by the press – create an atmosphere where the only understanding people have of impairments, conditions and disabled people is through government policy and the limited media representation – that is unless they visit charity websites or know someone who is disabled, of course.
However, there’s a possibility that this awkwardness and issue has transferred into education and other areas of society. While my experience at school regarding additional support was absolutely incredible, not everyone has the same opportunities during their time in the education system. For some, if measures are put in place to help them, it’s with little involvement from the disabled person themselves.
So now, as organisations look to implement the Charter for Change, it’s reassuring that one of the ten clauses within it is to:
“promote the leadership and diverse representation of all persons with disabilities to be front and centre of change; as leaders, partners and advocates. This includes the active involvement and close consultation of persons with disabilities of all ages.”
Summits are a great opportunity for discussion and debate – to talk, and to listen. If there’s a global effort to enforce the above pledge, then we can elevate the platforms of disabled people around the world, informing policy and breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions in our society that have existed for far too long.
Are you disabled and between 11 and 30 years old? If so, the Global Disability Summit is inviting you to share your thoughts on some of the issues disabled people face around the world. The survey is online now. I’ve completed it, and I hope you do too.