Israel Says

Reflecting on Disability History Month


From November 18th to December 20th 2020, the UK celebrated Disability History Month. I had never heard about the observance before this year, but I have to come to learn that it is meant to be a time to reflect on the struggles that people with disabilities have historically gone through, as well as recognise the issues that they still face today. Over the past few months, I have become more and more aware of the barriers that exist for people with disabilities. There are so many things that I take for granted and that give me privileges that others cannot enjoy. 

While it is easier to identify a physical disability, hidden disabilities tend to be harder to recognise. Mental illnesses in particular have historically been misunderstood. While ignorance may not seem like a big problem, the opposite is proven when we hear about the negative day-to-day treatment people receive from others around them. This is at its worst when law enforcement seriously injures and even kills people simply because they lack the training and understanding of how to interact with those with mental illnesses.

The pandemic has had the effect of widening the cracks in our society and exposing the inequalities that exist. The Office for National Statistics reported that 59% of people who died from Covid-19 in England and Wales between March 2nd and July 14th were disabled. With people losing jobs and Government spending being reallocated, the disabled community has been extremely disadvantaged. When it comes to intersectionality, people who both have disabilities and are from an ethnic minority are far more marginalised: access to public services is harder, unemployment rates tend to be higher and representation is difficult to find. 

However, there are people who are fighting to change this. Disability Rights UK, Asian People’s Disability Alliance and Black Disabled People's Association are examples of organisations who look to support people from the disabled community, but also to advocate for equal recognition and an improvement of their experience. Even so, long-lasting reform starts with us as individuals. By considering what may seem like simple things such as closed captioning, not making assumptions and not defining people by their disabilities, we can collectively learn to be open and inclusive, “abled” or “not”.

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