#WeThe15: A movement for an inclusive world

Persons with disabilities are 15% of our world. They are part of human diversity. WeThe15 aspires to be the biggest ever human rights movement to represent and transform the lives of the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities. Launching at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, WeThe15 have a 10-year campaign to put disability right at the heart of the inclusion agenda. This article will voice the global movement of WeThe15’s stance on the social model of disability, whilst educating our readers on how we can all actively make a difference and use our voices to ignite change.

The social model of disability refers to the common misconception about disability being viewed as a problem in a person’s body, requiring treatment to fix or cure the individual, or learning to adapt to ‘normal’ functioning in order to exist in our social environment. This mindset pathologizes all disabilities as a disadvantage that needs to be rectified. However, the social model of disability embodies the idea that a person is only disabled when the environment has failed to accommodate their needs.

As Lois Keith explains, ‘Doing disability all day long can be an exhausting process. I don’t mean having an impairment, in my own case not being able to walk. Like most disabled people I can deal with this. I mean having to spend a significant part of each day dealing with a physical world which is historically designed to exclude me and, even more tiring, dealing with other people’s preconceptions and misconceptions about me.’ Thus, it is society’s responsibility to begin promoting a cultural shift in the accessibility of our environment, and to educate non-disabled people and medical professionals on the distinction between impairment and disability.

WeThe15 plans to promote the importance of assistive technology as a vehicle to driving social inclusion. The astonishing lack of ramps, auditory and visual cues, wheelchair ramps, mobility scooters, walking aids etc actively excludes those with physical impairments from participating in mainstream social activities and employed work. As a care provider that works with individuals with impairments every day, we recognise the difference that even the simplest alteration of incorporating subtitles can have on the quality of life and mental health of those in our care.

In regard to quality of life, it is common for those with disabilities to feel undervalued and frustrated from unwelcomed reception and pity from the general world. Jenny Morris commented that ‘All the undermining messages, which we receive every day of our lives from the non-disabled world which surrounds us, become part of our way of thinking about ourselves’. This quote embodies the idea of the social and systemic barriers restricting disabled people’s ability to become active members of society by consistently being met with a negative evaluation. By targeting governments, businesses, and the public over the next decade and empowering a change in attitude, disabled people’s individual self-worth and identity can improve, without the additional disability of negative expectations.

WeThe15’s campaign can inspire us all to use our voices to educate, raise awareness and end discrimination for a more inclusive society. This includes holding ourselves accountable for areas of improvement and asking how we can actively become more accessible and inclusive for the disabled community. We believe that improving mobility and accessibility is essential for creating equal opportunities and social participation for those with non-standard bodies. To learn more about how you can get involved with WeThe15, visit their website here and use your voice to create change.

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