With all the excitement of COP26, imagine my dismay when delegate Karine Elharrar travelled all the way from Israel and was unable to enter the main conference venue as there was no access for wheelchair users. In 2021.
I was born with my left hand missing below the wrist 17 years ago and my disability has just been something that I have grown up with. The most accepting people I have come across have been children. This is because they do not hold many prejudices as they have not been taught them yet. However, as I got older, I became more aware of the discrimination and micro-aggressions that disabled people face every day. Teenagers were especially cruel, and ableist comments prevalent online. But in a world where people are rightfully called out for other forms of bigotry like racism and homophobia, why is ableism – discrimination against disabled people – not challenged?
A report from the UN in 2018 showed that 1 in 5 disabled people in the UK have their rights violated. This may be through disability benefits, job accessibility and availability or just due to a lack of accessibility in general.
The government can help disabled children maintain their rights. Article 23 of the UNCRC says “Disabled children have the right to enjoy a full life, with dignity, and to participate as far as possible in their community. The government should support disabled children and their families.”
From a young age I have been part of a number of charities for disabled children. They provided help, awareness and support for me and my family while also giving me the opportunity to meet others like me and to feel part of a community. But my parents had to look for these charities themselves. Raising a child with a disability is challenging and parents should be helped to access these resources. Furthermore, many families have to fight for disability benefits.
How can we improve education?
The UNCRC says that all children have the right to an education. Currently, education policy in Scotland is all about inclusivity for children with additional support needs (ASN) which I am completely in support of, when done properly. Many children are integrated into mainstream classrooms but their only source of support is the teacher, like the rest of the class. Not every ASN student, class or even school has access to specially trained support teachers or classroom assistants. Pupils should get the specialised support and care they require while trying to have as normal an education as possible.
What are the daily struggles?
I think that inclusive events like the Paralympics have made people think disabled people are super-human. A select few can push themselves but the majority of us can struggle with simple tasks. Especially children who are just trying to understand and accept life with a disability. This can range from difficulty opening a packet of crisps to someone not being able to use the subway due to the lack of wheelchair access. Frustratingly, I’ve just discovered that my provisional licence is being delayed while the DVLA checks my medical records. I’ve already been waiting six months.
So next time you come across a disabled person (without staring of course!) stop and think about how our lives are just a little more difficult and what could be done to make things a little easier for us.