As a disabled person, I consider myself to be fairly lucky. Yes, I face physical challenges on a daily basis but they haven’t stopped me from living a fulfilling life, getting a good education, raising my own family or running my own training business. I was fortunate enough to be born at a time when people’s attitudes towards disability were beginning to change and being disabled wasn’t seen as such a tragedy.
But, even now, some thirty years on, some people’s attitudes are firmly stuck in the past, in a time when the Medical Model of Disability dominated and disability was viewed as an individual problem, rather than a challenge for society to overcome. In the space of just a few weeks, I’ve experienced three different incidents where customer facing staff have failed to cater for my disability, causing upset and distress. In the first incident, the staff member didn’t have the patience to just listen to what I was saying, instead expecting a family member to speak for me. In a second, similar incident, the staff member made absolutely no effort to understand me and refused to let me talk to another member of staff. With the third incident, I was made to feel like a nuisance simply because I required a ramp in order to access a service. In all three cases, it was absolutely clear that the staff members hadn’t received Disability Awareness Training or at most, had fallen asleep in the middle of it. This despite the fact that disabled people in the UK have a huge spending power (£80bn I’m told) so an investment in such training would pay off in no time.
So yes, I still consider myself lucky, but it is attitudes which still need to change. A little bit of knowledge would go a long way in improving the lives of disabled people even more . . .