International Day of Disability Awareness

Almost 15% of the global population lives with a disability. The United Nations, therefore, recognizes December 3rd as the International Day for Persons with Disability. This day is an acknowledgment of the struggles that people with  disabilities face, like often being excluded from common and everyday activities within our society. Those with  disabilities also are not given equal opportunities to obtain work, education, health care, transportation or justice.

Almost 80% of those living with disabilities are living in developing countries with fewer opportunities than those in  industrialized countries. This high percentage of disability in developing countries is due to poverty and the lack of access to prenatal care and healthcare for pregnant women. There are several branches of disabilities that one can have including, but not limited to impairment of the senses, speech disabilities, cerebral palsy, Tourette’s, Epilepsy, AIDS/HIV, or Psychiatric illnesses. There are also a branch of hidden disabilities, where the disability might not be visible, but the effects and discrimination are still present in everyday life, like social barriers to employment and  school or barriers to proper healthcare. Those who fall under the hidden disabilities branch might not feel as though they completely fall into a group of people with disabilities because they are not “disabled enough”, and therefore, do not feel as though they fit in with any group.

When interacting with those who have disabilities, it is important to treat them with respect and as fellow human beings. There are extensive “Disability Etiquette” guides to combat common assumptions of those with disabilities and how one should approach those with disabilities. It is important to respect the boundaries of people with disabilities. Suddenly touching them, patting them, or trying to help them might throw them off balance. Often, equipment can be considered as the personal space of those with a disability, so being mindful about their space is important. It is also important to ask before you help someone who has a disability. People with disabilities often want to be seen as their own independent selves, and usually do not struggle if they have resources; if those with disabilities do need help, they usually ask and it is respectful of their independence to ask them before you jump in  and assume that they need help. Not making assumptions about those with disabilities is key in expanding their reach into society and allowing them to explore. Often people might make assumptions about what someone with a disability can and cannot do without asking them, which results in their exclusion from activities.

Having a disability can take a toll on an individual’s mental health. Often, the experience of a disability can be isolating and the experience of discrimination can greatly weigh someone down. Although, the extent of these  experiences can differ by the classification of disability, everyone can still experience the isolation and discrimination that comes with it. It is important for us to make an effort to incorporate those with disabilities so that they can shine, and to make sure they get treatment for their mental health, if needed.

If you are struggling with your mental health, or you know someone who might be struggling, please feel free to contact the professional team at Lifeline Connections for help! Getting yourself help, whether it is through self-help or by reaching out to professionals is an important part of recognizing that you are struggling; it is also a good step forward in getting the help you need. You can visit Lifelineconnections.org or call 360.397.8246 for more information.

This resource that expands on disability etiquette that goes into more detail for those with specific kinds of isabilities and how to interact with them respectfully: https://www.unitedspinal.org/disability-etiquette/

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