Building Inclusive Communities: Navigating Disability Awareness, Overcoming Discrimination, and Fostering Well-Being

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International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPwD) is a day led by the United Nations on December 3rd every year.  Australia has supported IDPwD since 1996, funding a program through the Department of Social Services to promote and raise awareness.

IDPwD aims to make people more aware, understanding, and accepting of those with disabilities. This means creating a society where everyone feels included. In 2023, the United Nations is asking everyone to work together to make the world better and fairer for people with disabilities.

Inclusion starts with recognizing that everyone, whether disabled or not, has the right to fully participate in life—in activities at home, work, and in society. Building disability awareness involves understanding and sometimes overcoming discrimination. Discrimination happens when a person with a disability is treated less favourably than someone without a disability in the same situation. It can be direct, like intentionally denying someone their rights, or indirect, causing unreasonable disadvantage without thinking.

An example of direct discrimination is when someone is refused entry to a café or restaurant because they have a service dog.

An example of indirect discrimination is when a Deaf person doesn’t have access to an AUSLAN Interpreter in a workplace meeting.

Overcoming discrimination means challenging the belief that people with disabilities are “less than” others. This belief is deeply rooted in society and shows up in subtle ways, shaping how people think and act. This feeling of being “less than” creates a world where exclusion is everywhere, sometimes without people even realizing it. For example, simple tasks like going out can be challenging for those with disabilities due to barriers like stairs or high grocery shelves.

To address these issues, we need to develop mindful awareness of disability inclusion. This means questioning why things are the way they are. Why do we have stairs at entrances? Why are items placed out of reach? By challenging these norms, we can create a more inclusive mindset. Mindful awareness helps us consider others’ experiences and find solutions to eliminate unnecessary barriers.

Think about encountering obstacles on footpaths—common for many with mobility challenges. Mindful awareness encourages us to advocate for spaces that accommodate everyone. It pushes us to engage with how items are placed in stores, ensuring that everyone, no matter their ability, can access what they need without obstacles.

While helping someone reach high items in a grocery store seems like a good solution, it’s crucial to know that automatic actions might not be the best. Disability etiquette guides us on how to treat and respect people with disabilities. It emphasizes treating everyone how we want to be treated. So, instead of automatically helping, it’s important to ask if the person wants assistance. This respects their right to make choices for themselves.

Recognizing and respecting disability etiquette isn’t just about being polite. It’s a key part of creating a more inclusive world. By thinking about how we assist, respecting personal boundaries, and letting individuals make choices, we contribute to a supportive, inclusive environment. This enhances the well-being, self-determination, and dignity of people with disabilities.

In conclusion, as we celebrate the International Day of People with Disabilities, let’s remember our collective responsibility to make the world better and fairer for everyone. The United Nations calls for collaboration, highlighting the importance of inclusivity. Overcoming deeply ingrained beliefs and addressing discrimination is crucial. Mindful awareness of disability inclusion is the key to breaking down unnecessary barriers. And disability etiquette guides us in treating everyone with sensitivity and respect, fostering a culture of dignity and inclusion for people with disabilities.