Challenging our thoughts on disabilities

Australia is a first world country, like most of Europe and the US. Our children are educated, our population training and supported, we have great health services which everyone has some form of access to and should we fall over financially, we have a safety net which ensures that we don't starve.

Why is it however that we just don't know as a people to deal with someone who has a disability? Why is it that we sit and stare at this person as though they are a freak?

As I type this I am sitting in an eatery watching a man walking about shouting. He is not screaming by any means but it is an awkward noise to hear within a shopping centre. There is someone walking with him, a carer I presume who is trying to direct him back to his table.

Granted, it is an awkward situation but why is everyone staring as though this is the first time they have seen someone with a disability?

The security guards are circling like sharks trying to take control of the situation. I don't know what they think they are going to do. They are unlikely to touch him.

The carer who is with this man eventually leads him back to his table, a table of eight or so people with mental and physical disabilities who are out on a weekly excursion. They arrive in bus every week and spend some time at the shopping centre, having a meal and seeing new surroundings.

Yes they don't look normal, their appearance tells us that they are somehow different from the rest of us, but this isn't new. People have been born with disabilities since time began. We all know of families with children who have some form of disability. When we hear stories of their children being teased or turned on by others, we shake our head with anger, yet when we are part of the scene as I am here, we sit and stare as though we are at the zoo.

Having spent some time with a family member who had a disability, I remember the awkward feeling of taking him out to family events and seeing the reaction from family when his behaviour towards to them was odd. They would look at him as though he should know better. At one stage in his life he did, but disease changed all that.

As I mentioned, we are an educated country and a compassionate one at that. We watch kids starving on TV and cry, we give money to fund raising events, yet we haven't learn't to simply accept people for what they are.

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