Help Celebrate, #IDPD2017

Today marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. To learn more about this United Nations initiative, read on.
In 1992, the UN proclaimed December 3 as a day to recognize persons with disabilities. This year’s theme is “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all.”
I can only speak for a small fraction of this population, and only those living in one of the most privileged countries in the world. In Canada, living as a person with a disability doesn’t come with the same challenges as it does for people living in, for example, Brazil.
Accessibility, including access to public buildings and services, continues to be one of the major issues facing many people with disabilities. Accessibility, of course, means different things to different people. For me, as a blind person who uses a white cane, having the pebbled strip along the edges of the LRT platforms in Edmonton gives me warning as I come close to that edge. Believe me—it’s helpful. I’ve fallen off the damned platform twice over the years, once breaking two ribs on a snowy evening in January, 2010.
Accessibility, however, isn’t the only issue. Treating people with dignity is equally important. If, for example, you encounter a person who is deaf accompanied by an interpreter, don’t talk to the interpreter; talk to the person. If you see someone whom you think might need some help, ask before helping, and allow that person the dignity of refusing your help.
When I’m out and about, people ask me all kinds of questions—some of them pointedly personal. I wrote a piece about being asked such questions last year, which you can find in Hippocampus Magazine.
I don’t mind the questions people ask, and I try to answer as best I can. If you are ever in any doubt regarding a question you want to ask a person with a disability, ask yourself the same question first. It’s about being aware, but sometimes it’s just about being sensitive.
Help celebrate this day, but take this United Nations initiative into your life and workplace in meaningful ways. And thank you, in advance.

3 thoughts on “Help Celebrate, #IDPD2017”

  1. I must add a P.S. having reflected on your post as I made my oatmeal for breakfast. Over the last few days, the thick ice on the sidewalks and paved trails where I usually walk the dog has given me a taste of what inaccessibility means. I cannot descend from Saskatchewan Drive into Kinsmen Park with ease and safety because the surface in places resembles a skating rink. I need to buy some new cleats for my shoes (I get through cleats at a high rate, wearing them down or losing them in deep snow). I enjoy your posts; they get me reflecting on life in fresh ways. Best Wishes, Graham

    1. Hi Graham. Thanks, as always, for your comments. It’s true. The ice on the sidewalks provide a challenge to many people. I was out for a long walk yesterday. Having just come back from Victoria where the sidewalks are clear, I was forcibly reminded of what winter does to the people living here. It’s no wonder many get more housebound through the winter months. Best.

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