Disability Action Week

We always ponder the definition of struggle. We all have our own definition of struggle. But have you ever tested somebody else’s struggle by trading places?

This week, QUT participated in Disability Action week.

Disability Action Week seeks to recognise the achievements, and endeavours faced by people who experience a disability. At QUT we participated by encouraging inclusive communities through increased awareness of people with a disability.

I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into with this, but the underlying cause of this event really inspired my involvement. I guess I play some part in creating awareness for really anything I talk about on this blog, regardless of how long that awareness is maintained. But this is something I can only hope sustains indefinitely.

I had an opportunity to choose how I would like to express a disability for a day. This ranged from being in a wheelchair, wearing sound proof ear muffs, or sacrificing a limb for the day. In the end I wore a sling for the day. Now I had to decide which arm I would be willing to lose for at least an eight hour period. Being right-handed, I chose to part with my left arm thinking this would be easy. It wasn’t – let’s just get that out of the way!

From simple things like balance, driving (Well yes I tried to drive but after looking in my rear vision mirror with sling in tow, I wisely opted out), to preparing food, I realised how incapable I was of being disabled even if it was for one day. There were times I chucked tantrums at myself as my impatience reached altitudes even Everest would be proud of. In another confession, I couldn’t handle being left-armless for an eight hour period. I realised that general life tasks, and activities, really add value to those limbs we take for granted.

I must acknowledge that I have a bone disease, and my arms get really sore when their movement is restricted. Does this make me less of a whinger? NO! This experience really put into perspective the struggles faced by people with a disability, and how much more we can do in offering support and assistance to people impacted by a disability.

I was only experiencing a physical disability to gain awareness for the cause. But so many people would be ignored for their invisible disabilities – the unheard complaints because society continues to walk by associating disability with a physical anatomical problem. The Queensland Government states that “one in five Queenslanders have a disability of some kind.” Some examples of those invisible disabilities include Asperger syndrome, ADD & ADHD disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and epilepsy to name a few.

I am proud to have represented QUT during these celebrations, because I believe we are doing many things that encourage the inclusive community that disadvantaged people desire. Our equity section is strongly represented on all of our campuses. They assist students in overcoming accessibility issues, financial issues, sitting exams, meeting assessment criteria, attending classes or work obligations among others. But while we are doing a lot, we can do so much more.

As individuals we must recognise the challenges faced by so many people in our communities, and actively encourage our employers, our tertiary institutions, our politicians, our families to all do more. Creating awareness and encouraging wider acceptance of people with a disability is really the starting point. From there we could look at lobbying the Brisbane City Council to completely remove their stupid buses with steps in the bus entrance with a pole dissecting the entry, or Queensland Rail to make all train platforms level with train entrances. Other things could include staffing objectives that mean businesses must prove that they are actively encouraging inclusive communities through hiring objectives to hire a certain percentage of people with disabilities, or changes made to individual workplaces that support and assist people with disabilities. These few suggestions really aren’t that hard to implement.

I’ll finish with this quote by Robert M. Hensel.

“Placing one foot in front of the other, I’ve climbed to higher lengths. Reaching beyond my own limitations, to show my inner strength. No obstacle too hard, for this warrior to overcome. I’m just a man on a mission, to prove my disability hasn’t won.”

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