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.

Spot the difference…

Spot the difference between these two statements:

  • International Day of Disabled Persons.
  • International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

In 1982 the UN General Assembly decided on the World Programme of Action for Disabled People. In 2007 the official title of the Day was changed from International Day of Disabled Persons to International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Still contentious but at least it reflects the move from medical to social models of disability; a change from the association of the word disability with the deficit ‘can’t do’ (caused by the individual impairment) to the positive ‘can do’ (enabled through social change).

Language is  important. We speak and attribute without thinking; we’re all subjects of Foucauldian discourse whereby ‘truths’ derive from external structures of control, legitimised and maintained through behaviours, beliefs and attitudes. Reference to disabled persons is incorrect. We are all persons. The reasons I may not use a computer mouse could be cerebral palsy, stroke, arthritis, broken bones or because I simply can’t see the cursor. To label me a disabled person because of limited physical or cognitive capacity is wrong. This is not being pedantic – its being aware of difference. Identity is on the surface; it’s what’s underneath that counts.