I realise that I am one of few that sees no significance of the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) that is supposedly ‘celebrated’ on the 3rd of December and I also know that this view will be regarded as ‘negative’ but that is because many people don’t fully realise what it entails to be living with disability in our current climate.
Yes, IDPD is a positive and informative act but for many who live with that particular condition these dates are nothing short of a patronising and unhelpful reminders that society has a long way to go before fully recognising the full aspect of disability.
Being a person living with disability has taught me many things, one of which is to accept and interact with people of various abilities so some dates that are internationally celebrated don’t really add or introduce anything to me. Until recently such celebrations never really affected me as I had not assessed their impact and the value they add to the whole wide society rather than just a certain segment of it. My view started to change or more aptly develop after reading an article by a mother of three autistic girls who criticised the notion of celebrating Autism on International awareness week of Autism, arguing that the condition does not need to be celebrated but requires people to realise the struggle and challenges that it brings to people living with autism. Initially I did not agree fully as I thought any step that is taken to spread awareness is a positive aspect but in reality and once I actually began to put myself in the situation of those living with the condition I started to see a different perspective of these celebrations.
I was born with Ullrich Muscular Dystrophy and to my knowledge there is no awareness week or international celebration of my condition but if there was I think I would get irritated if I saw the world celebrating a muscle wasting condition without actually acknowledging the challenges and struggles that come with it. I wonder how many people who are celebrating the IDPD realise that the UK was condemned by the UN(CRPD) Committee last August on the Government’s record on Disabled People’s human rights. “They have validated the desperation, frustration and outrage experienced by Disabled people since austerity and welfare cuts began. It is no longer acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message of the disability community”. This is just one example of the UK’s violations of disabled people’s human rights but what about other countries, we have America whose leader not only mocked disabled people but have introduced laws and legislation that caused outrage among the disabled community which led to their arrest. Then we have the Arab region who are progressing slowly but to develop you need to integrate disabled people into every aspect of society and not just offer little ‘tokens’.
Let me put this notion forward, I had a quick glance at friends’ social media accounts and I did not see a single disabled person getting excited or even mentioning this day! Whereas I did see may organisations which are not user-led celebrating the IDPD. Figure out the reason behind this. And no I will not be decorating my wheelchair or wear a badge that says’its my day’ because quite simply this is my life and not just a day.
There can be initiatives that truly raise awareness for example spending the day with people of the ‘celebrated’ condition or doing an exchange students program between mainstream school and special needs one and media must also play a role in exposing to a wider audience the daily tribulations of living with that particular condition. These in my personal view are a much more progressive acts of celebration ones that teaches people about acceptance. I am not demeaning the current attempts at raising awareness, they are exemplary acts but they are non-progressive; imagine for example celebrating your birthday in the same manner throughout your life – same cake, candle, music, friends as your first birthday without consideration to the changes that have occurred throughout the years which is precisely the problem with the annual international awareness celebration. They are repetitive and offer nothing new.