Last Sunday, I celebrated my 28th birthday. To be honest, birthdays have lost the excitement they might have had when I was younger. I guess it's a combination of factors and circumstances, such as the many tasks I have on my plate right now. Not to mention some health concerns I've been having. The latter, with luck, should improve.
The work I was involved in and which I had to re-examine over the last week concerned the research I and two of my colleagues carried out concerning the quality of life of disabled people in Malta. In this study, we analysed the results of the Census of 2005 and how Maltese disabled people fared in contrast to non-disabled people and between each other.
During my revision of the conclusions, I felt a degree of inadequacy and even guilt. The fact that
Just 14.6% of the disabled population were in employment,
That 42.3% had reached a primary educational level,
That 79.3% had no qualifications or
That only 46.9% lived in good standard housing,
Are just a few reasons why I cannot help feeling a degree of guilt for what I have achieved? At the same time, I believe it would be wrong to ignore this reality and do as I did in my youth. And go pretending I'm not disabled and detach myself from the issues that face us all. I am quite hurt, at times, to find disabled allies telling me that given my background, I do not represent them. What do I answer to that? I have wondered.
I know that despite any achievements I could pretend to have, disabled attitudes still continue to condition how society may value and judge me. But, of course, I could hide away at home and live without exposing myself to other people. The fact remains that I want to go out and do what I have the right to do. That is why I venture out at times to work and to socialise.
In this, I recognise the same struggle, the same barriers that other Maltese disabled people face. The limited opportunities to get a good education, a decent job or proper housing. In public, we also face the barrier posed by inaccessible buildings, transport or even information. In spite of this, the cruellest cut is to be told that we are unfortunate, we are the problem ... More seriously, is the tendency for some disabled people to move away from recognising a common experience of a disabling society, departed from medical impairment and tragedy.
For I believe that we, disabled people, should realise that impairment doesn't limit us as much as society would have us believe. Let me clear - I am not adopting the slogan of 'look at my ability not my disability' here because this seriously poses us a disservice Indeed, as a disability activist I firmly hold that the fact we can't access buildings is more due to the way buildings are designed. That the problems we face making sense of information has more to do with the way this information is presented and so on and so forth.
As many disabled activists have stated, it is the way society is organised that creates disability by not taking people with impairments into account. Ability talk is obsessed with individual proof and not collective or policy solutions.
Hence it becomes more important for us to own the results of the Census Report, which gives an indication of the quality of our life, and use it to push forward policy change and greater opportunities. For we have the golden opportunity to show how institutions are still failing some of us while acknowledging the progress that has been achieved (especially the young generations).
These were a series of thoughts that lay on my chest. I may have been wrong in some of my judgements but then, opinions and facts may change.
For those interested to read the Census Report which gives more indications and detailed statistics, and analysis please VISIT http://www.knpd.org/
> CLICK ON Publications
> SAVE Census 2005 (ZIP)
The Census Report also contains the following stats:
1. difference between disabled and non-disabled people.
2. difference between disabled men and disabled women.
3. disabled people across age groups.
4. disabled people by impairment groups.
5. disabled people by district. they inhabit.
These groups will be analysed through:
A DEMOGRAPHICS (AGE, GENDER, MARITAL STATUS, ETC.)
B EDUCATION (LEVEL, QUALIFICATIONS, LITERACY, ETC.).
C EMPLOYMENT (RATE, TYPE, AREA, ETC.)
D. DWELLINGS (TYPE, STATE, APPLIANCES, ETC.)
E. INTERNET ACCESS
F. PARTICIPATION IN SPORTS