Society must change its negative perception on disability

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Greatman

ARTISTES with disability recently expressed anguish over how they are failing to do live stage performances simply because the majority of stages in the country are user-unfriendly as they do not have ramps to cater for people with disability.

The artistes said at times they have to be carried onto the stage to perform, which some described as embarrassing, as it dents their confidence. They said they would be capable of coming on stage on their own if these facilities also catered for them.

The artistes accused show promoters of ignoring their plight.

However, looking at the issue more critically, it is not even the promoters’ fault or responsibility that stages where live performances take place must have ramps.

This issue directly speaks to how the whole country views disability. Simply put, what this issue is exposing is a society that discriminates against people with disability. What this issue demonstrates is that if there has been any talk about catering for the needs of people with disability, it has all been empty talk.

In other words, we have been lying to the world that we do not discriminate against people with disability and we should all bow hour heads in shame because we are all guilty of failing to remember the needs of people with disability.

What has happened to the policy that every public place and building, including live performance stages, should have slopes for easy access by people with disability?

Some years back there was a flurry of activity after government announced it would be descending heavily on all built-up environments to make sure that there are no barriers impeding people with disability.

The hype only lasted a short time because government did not live up to its threat.

It is strange that a serious nation hoping to be an upper middle-income country by 2030 takes this issue lightly.

In fact, a serious society should know that disability can visit anyone anytime. The majority of people who currently have disabilities were never born with those conditions, but the conditions visited them through accidents, illnesses and other unfortunate incidents along life’s path.

Therefore, a country with a serious people should make sure that all facilities cater for everyone regardless of physical condition.

The United Nations aptly puts it thus: “We are all physically disabled at some time in our lives. A child, a person with a broken leg, a parent with a pram, an elderly person, etc are all disabled in one way or another. Those who remain healthy and able-bodied all their lives are few. As far as the built-up environment is concerned, it is important that it should be barrier-free and adapted to fulfil the needs of all people equally. As a matter of fact, the needs of the disabled coincide with the needs of the majority, and all people are at ease with them. As such, planning for the majority implies planning for people with varying abilities and disabilities.”

We should, indeed, all be ashamed of ourselves for letting down those living with disability on this very obvious and critical issue.