Michael McEwan: To make life better for disabled people we need to challenge dehumanisation – society needs to see the person not just the label

Ben Wray

Michael McEwan, freelance journalist and the chairperson of his local disability group, says there are still many barriers to disabled people accessing work and achieving what they want to in society, one of those being dehumanisation – society tends to see the disabled label not the person behind it

THERE has been progress in society for people with a disability, but when it comes to access to employment there is still a lot of work to be done to break down the barriers.

A report commissioned in 2017 by Disabilty Agenda Scotland (DAS) found that there are over quarter of a million adults with a disability of working age; only 30 per cent of those are in employment. 

The DAS report concluded that many people with a disability were unable to work, that there were social and economic benefits for those who were able to work but there were barriers other than health or ability. These included employer and societal attitudes. More work needs to be done to support people with a disability entering the jobs market.

READ MORE – Michael McEwan: The stigma around employing people with a disability has to end

There is still a major issue surrounding labels given to people with disabilities. It’s not the type of disability that defines a person, rather their personality, achievements and goals in life.

I think more needs to be done to raise awareness about disabilities, as many people have little knowledge of these, only the “labels” they are given such as Dwarfism, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome, Autism and many more. People can’t be defined by a label , this is unwittingly a form of prejudice which we as a society need to continue to challenge and enlighten. 

My disability is Cerebral Palsy, and if people ask about that I tell them. I don’t announce it, it doesn’t define me; I’m shaped by my experiences in life, the people I meet and lastly the challenges I have overcome.

READ MORE – Colette Walker: A new approach to public infrastructure? Start by making buildings accessible

TV and media have helped to raise awareness of disability and mental health issues, so that viewers get a more three dimensional view of living with a disability and to see that it is part of someone’s life but not all of it.

I played in a disability football team but I didn’t see my teammates’ disabilities, I just saw their abilities as players, who won games on their ability, not as a disabled team. I have friends with a disability but I see the people they are, they don’t have labels to me and we are just a close group of friends who hang out together.

While I’m not a fan of reality tv shows I can see that ones such as The Undateables follow people with a disability in their own environment; their thoughts, feelings, fears and ambitions. It lets the viewers see the person and not just the disability, how their life is shaped by the choices they make and not the “label” which society hangs round their neck. 

Picture courtesy of The Home of Fixers on Flickr

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