In too many countries, what we take for granted here in the United States
has never been granted at all.
~John Kerry, International Day of Persons with Disabilities
A friend sent me a moving video and a reminder that today, December 3, 2014, is International Day of People with Disabilities
. As a person who grew up with two disabled family members, I am so aware of how far the U.S. has come, and how far we still have to go.
Growing up, there were no stalls big enough for wheelchairs, no curb cuts, no mechanical prosthetics, no accommodations in schools or work places. The attitudes people held about those with disabilities were astounding: fear and ignorance, misinformation, lack of compassion, and the assumption that if a person was less able physically, or cognitively, they were less of a person.
When I travel, I am always saddened that very, very little of what we take for granted in the United States, is available to disabled people around the world. I still remember seeing a man in Lhasa, Tibet without legs, on a skateboard, using his arms to maneuver himself around and it struck me how few disabled people I saw—anywhere—in public. I’ve commented on this fact to Big Papa many times. I thought about it a lot when we were in Armenia. I never once saw someone with an obvious disability, never once someone in a wheelchair, never once even someone on crutches…other than within the confines of an orphanage.
And the lack of services for disabled people internationally doesn’t even begin to touch on the attitudes held in many countries about being disabled. Even though more than one billion people – approximately 15 percent of the world’s population – live with some form of disability they are viewed as an embarrassment, pariahs. Disabled people have poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without. People with disabilities are also at higher risk of violence, are frequently stigmatized, discriminated against, and ignored. There is virtually no support for someone with a disability, and certainly a lack of social support for those who care for them.
I’m not sure what it will take to raise awareness, increase understanding, educate, and foster change. But change we must.
Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.
Take the road less traveled, Beth
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