The United Nations describes disability as a condition that is judged as significantly impaired compared to an individual’s standard in the same group of living. Accordingly, the term disabled individual is used to refer to people with impaired functioning such as physical, intellectual, cognitive, and sensory impairment. Moreover, people with mental illness and some specific chronic diseases are also considered disabled.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, about 15% of the global population lives with a form of disability. Out of this 15%, 80% are from developing countries, making the disabled population the largest minority group.
You’d think disability ends at not being able to perform some functions. Research has shown that disabled people are exposed to extreme poverty compared to people without disabilities. Disabled people also face a lot of discrimination. As a result, they may not have access to proper education, diet, health care, and economic opportunities. These people remain poor, unemployed, and largely excluded in policy formulation. In addition, they’re also voiceless in social and political matters. This is especially the case in developing countries.
In countries like the United States, the plight of disabled people has been improving through projects such as disability support services. However, there’s still more work that should be done.
Is There More Empowerment That You Can Do?
In 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became a law. To that effect, any discrimination against people living with disability was prohibited. This act confirmed that disabled persons have equal rights and opportunities to education, employment, transport, and other public and private services.
As stated before, this law has positively impacted the lives of people living with disabilities in America. However, it hasn’t completely erased exclusion and discrimination among these people. In fact, discrimination and exclusion are the leading cause of disempowerment in the disabled community.
On the other hand, empowering people involves giving them their voice and control over their lives. Disabled people should be allowed to participate, especially if decisions regarding their lives are at stake. Since they know their situations best, they’re therefore best suited to develop strategies on how to make their lives better. If they continue being passive in decision-making, their status won’t change, and they’ll not be emboldened.
Here are some suggested ways to further empower disabled people in this day and age:
See The Person Before The Disability
Empowering the disabled starts from the grassroots. It starts from how you view disabled people. It’s easy to disregard that these people are human like you and me. People often forget that they also have dreams, goals, and aspirations. They are just like anyone in the society that desires to be accepted and valued.
That being said, don’t let the disability blind you from bonding on a human relationship level. Please don’t dismiss it, but look past it. You can easily employ disabled persons in your workplace or accept them in your school if you see them as people first. They should be accepted for their capabilities and not be discriminated against because of their disability.
Employ People Living With Disabilities
As mentioned before, disabled people are often excluded from employment and other economic opportunities. This explains why most of them remain poor and unable to access basic human needs like food, shelter, and health care.
Therefore, one of the ways to empower the disabled is by offering them employment opportunities. However, it’s not just hiring them. You have to be intentional about it. Look for opportunities within your company that would best fit a disabled person’s profile.
By doing so, you give the disabled person a fair chance to interact and work with other people without disabilities. This keeps disabled persons active, competitive, and accepted in their work. With such arrangements, these people develop a sense of belongingness, which adds confidence, and gradually gets them empowered.
Offer Equal Payment
If you’re going to employ people living with a disability only to underpay them, then you better not hire them. As of 2021, research showed that most disabled Americans earn USD$3.34 an hour, a subminimum wage compared to the federal requirement of USD$7.25. To make it worse, some employers pay disabled employees less than non-disabled ones, yet they all do the same job.
When you underpay your disabled employees, you take away their economic rights. Sometimes they may put up with the low payment to foot their bills and earn a living. However, their condition of living remains relatively miserable and poor.
For that reason, you should employ people living with disability and pay them well. This starts by not looking at their disability as a liability and appreciate their abilities to help your company thrive.
Encourage Social Inclusion At School
Sadly, the exclusion of disabled persons starts as early as elementary school. It’s common for the disabled child to be excluded from the friendship cliques at school. Unfortunately, the disabled child is bullied, and their disability is made fun of.
At this point, the child begins to notice they’re different from other kids. Due to the bullying and exclusion, their voice is oppressed, and soon they lose their confidence in their lives.
Therefore, the best way to stop this exclusion is nipping it from its bud. First, take your disabled child to a regular school and allow them to interact with other children. Secondly, every child should be informed on the history of disability. What causes it and how it should be handled. When you expose children to information like this, you educate the non-disabled, and benefit the disabled.
Throughout history, the child living with disability will identify themselves with disabled people who have gone ahead of them. Eventually, they’ll also learn that their disability isn’t an inability. It would be of great advantage to learn the many ways to navigate life with a disability. They should realize what their strengths are and not only their weaknesses.
Increase Their Political Representation
How many politicians, government officials, and policymakers are disabled in your state? Few, right? Do you think there is equal representation of disabled persons in the government? If your answer is no, you need to join the human rights movement that encourages more political inclusion among the disabled.
Moreover, it’s the role of the disabled people already in the government to encourage the young people living with disability to take part in political issues. Please encourage them to voice their opinions and seek government positions in their state. This way, you’ll help build a sustainable political representation among the disabled.
Another way to improve political representation among the disabled is by streamlining their election experience. After the 2012 General Election Cycle, research found that disabled people still face technological challenges such as no sign language interpreter for the deaf and braille sign for the blind. They also face architectural problems like narrow doors, which hinder entry using a wheelchair. In some cases, their voting competency was questioned, and they were denied their voting rights.
To Wrap It Up
Since 1990, major strides have been made towards empowering the disabled. However, there’s still so much work to be done. If you’re wondering how, you can empower the disabled, the five ways discussed above is a good place to start.
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