For many people with disabilities, the world can be a hostile and unbending place. They can face boundaries, challenges and prejudices that an able-bodied person will never have to. So, what can we do to make the world more inclusive for disabled people? Here are four ideas.
Employ people with disabilities
Although the UK disability employment gap has reduced over the past six years, there is still work to be done. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that disabled people are under-represented in the workplace, with 53.2% of them in employment, compared to 81.8% of non-disabled people.
One thing the pandemic has shown is that many of us can quite easily work from home. Things that were perhaps once thought essential, like travelling for business meetings or simply being in the office, have proved to be not so essential after all. Going forward, companies offering increased work-from-home opportunities will make it easier for people with disabilities.
Back in the office, employers may think that hiring individuals with disabilities might mean making expensive alterations. However, this isn’t necessarily the case and could simply be a matter of making more space between desks or printing signs in a larger font size. The onus should be on employers to base their decisions on education and understanding and not for disabled people to break down barriers.
Employ more actors with disabilities in the mainstream media
From Annabelle Davis in CBBC’s The Dumping Ground to RJ Mitte, who played Walter White’s son in Breaking Bad, there are more disabled actors working in TV and film than there ever was. In fact, Silent Witness’ Liz Carr is now set for her first Hollywood film. But producers need to keep pushing and increase the opportunities for disabled talent and move away from giving disabled character roles to able-bodied actors.
It’s important for disabled people, particularly children, to see themselves represented on TV and film and to make disabled characters fully-formed, three-dimensional characters, not just a ‘disabled person’.
Make travel universally accessible
From trains to planes, there is still a long way to go when it comes to making travel accessible. Not all airlines have larger toilets on their planes, for example, and disabled people wanting to travel long haul may even have to consider taking shorter connecting flights.
As for train travel, among the many challenges faced by disabled passengers, 30% reported lack of suitable toilets on board and a third reported they had experienced anti-social or discriminatory behaviour from other passengers. It’s clear much more needs to be done to make disabled passengers feel confident about travelling. Such measures could include encouraging and listening to feedback, addressing any highlighted issues and increasing the level of dedicated service on planes, airports, stations and platforms.
On the roads however, things are thankfully a bit simpler. Investing in a wheelchair accessible vehicle, such as the ones available from Allied Mobility, can open up the world to disabled people and make it easy for them to do the things that so many able-bodied people take for granted.
Realise that people with disabilities are humans too
Prejudice often stems from ignorance. We all need to get to know one another and this should begin at a young age. At school, for example, able-bodied children can learn that a child’s disability isn’t a barrier to play or friendships.
Adults can be guilty of not looking past someone’s disability, so we should also try and educate ourselves. Whether that’s by reading books which include disabled characters or watching TV programmes, the more we learn about each other, the more we can understand that we’re all just the same.