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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

ACCESS DENIED

When this message flashes across your screen, it usually means that you’re in sort of trouble. And yet, in real life, I have faced this message many times in my life. The moment I fully understood what it meant for society to be impaired was the time I could answer the many doubts I had about some events of my life.

As I am currently doing sessions with schoolchildren, I am even more convinced of the values I believe in. That my impairment, and the different ways I do things, shouldn’t be a reason for my exclusion. We often underestimate children when we ‘grown-ups’ discuss issues. But I really wonder why it’s so easy for children to understand that I’m not that different from other people and yet I must prove it all over again to people who are older and err… more mature (?).

Only last week, I was greeted by an educated man who assisted me to find where I had to be. The first thing I am asked, of course, is not about my purpose there or a question about my work but the number one question I, and any other self-respecting disabled person, hates to be asked…

What do you suffer from?

I answered that I mostly suffer from exclusion and from being labelled by my impairment. Unsurprisingly, he looked at me blankly not realising that this is not his darn business! And in fact that it’s not anyone’s business strictly speaking…

Well, apparently, my life should be available for public consumption. On the other hand, my rights to participate in society and to access services is not an option I should be given. For all I want is really the choice to make my own decisions. That’s after all what I understand by independence.

Instead, I am notified that some things in my life are denied from me – not because I don’t need them but because other people think that having an impairment disqualifies me from even thinking I need them. So we are made to believe that it’s our problem, or that it’s something we should ‘accept’ (hate that word).

As the UN finished its convention on the rights of disabled people, I am perhaps more optimistic. Hopefully, this convention is ratified and its protocol adopted by many member countries – including Malta (my own). Perhaps we’ll be seeing ‘access denied’ less and less as time goes on. But I would be naïve to ignore the fact that we are still seen to be so ‘special’ and so ‘defective’ (in the same time) that many who have impairments are even denied life and access to proper education and employment – to name just a few.

Worse still, the possibilities of forming any intimate relationships is often forfeited by a society which still regards us as ‘inferior’ or as somehow ‘deviant’. I am encouraged by the children I have been talking to over the last week (I’m not counting but I’ve talked to over 400 children for sure so far). I am hopeful that what I have tried to explain through engaging them in a discussion will leave a mark on some of them at least.

The iron curtain that separated the communist world from the western world might have crumbled and old enmities resolved. But the barriers we face as disabled people will not fall that easily. It’s not just a matter of changing the physical environment or the ways we exchange information. That’s because we need to change the way we look at each other.

Right: Picture of what remains of the Berlin wall

Picture taken by Vincitrice from: http://www.sxc.hu/index.phtml.



For this to happen, as disabled people, we should embrace our differences and impairments as equally valid and significant. Non-disabled people, on their part, should be conscious of the fact that impairment is not something that concerns only us but involves every member of the human society. But more than that, it’s also a very subjective label that can change with time…

Left: UN emblem
click here to read the UN Convention

1 comments:

Philip said...

Great post!

I've added a link to your blog to my blog.

http://www.disabled-help.org
http://www.disabilityblog.org

See you around.