nuff said…

December 3 was International Day of People with disabilities. You could be excused for not noticing. A quick survey of online newpapers revealed the following:

  • The Guardian reported on an enquiry into disability related harassment, mentioning in the penultimate paragraph that the inquiry was announced on the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
  • The Independent celebrated 1000 days to the paralypics saying ‘Fittingly, today is also International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) … a worldwide celebration recognising the contributions and achievements of people with disabilities…’  The UN say the day is about achieving ‘human rights and participation in society by persons with disabilities’ so it’s about dignity and justice for all rather than just the Paralympian elite.
  • The best the Telegraph could do was a story about an Australian budget airline refusing a blind passenger and guide dog board a domestic flight with a strapline reference to the International Day of Disabled Persons.
  • In the Daily Express you could read how Stevie Wonder is now a United Nations Messenger of Peace, with a special mission to help people with disabilities, but no mention of the significance of printing the story on December 3rd.

The Times and the Daily Mail seemed to have forgotton the day altogether and I didn’t anticpate missing much by stopping there. The British press could have done so much more to highlight the inequalities of daily life for those with sensory, motor and cognitive impairment. Lets hear it for the voice of the people rather than the voice of the establishment performing yet another cover up job.


I’ve been reading an account of the life of the Russian psychologist Vygotsky, written by his daughter, in 1994. Gita describes how her father worked with physically handicapped and mentally retarded children, how he founded a laboratory to study the psychology of abnormal children and how the laboratory was upgraded to be the Experimental Institute of Defectology. In a sad sentence, Gita writes:

“Vygotsky was always able to establish an atmosphere of trust and rapport with the children, he always talked with them as though they were equals, always paid attention to their answers. In turn, the children opened up to him in a way they never did with other examiners.”

Vygotsky was 37 when he died of TB in 1934. Gita wrote her account in 1994 with no apparent self-consciousness about using language that would be considered inappropriate in this country but still reflects social and cultural attitudes in Russia today. Language is key; if we were to substitute disability for difference and accessible for inclusive, we might have more success in changing attitudes.